My interview with Citizen For Justice pertaining to the illegal release of personal information by the Springfield Police Department, Greene County Sheriff’s Department, and Springfield-Greene County 911 Emergency Communications Center
A Dangerous Practice
Earlier this year I was listening to the Springfield-Greene County dispatch over the police scanner app on my phone when I overheard something that shocked me. In response to a contact an officer made with a citizen who seemed to lack an ID, the officer contacted the county’s 911 Emergency Communications department (dispatch) over an unsecured channel to run a background check on the citizen. Being that the citizen seemed to have no official form of identification, the officer had collected his social security number, name, and date of birth. This information was then read over this same unsecured channel to the dispatcher who reported back with more information about the subjects driving and criminal record after several minutes.
The information that was recklessly leaked over the air is all that is needed for most forms of identity theft. A criminal could easily use this information to obtain fraudulent credit cards, receive a loan, file for government benefits, file false tax returns, purchase a cell phone plan, connect utilities, engage in criminal activity under the victims identity, or any number of other scams that have become prominent in recent years. When the bill collectors come calling, it won’t be the identity thief who’s forced to foot the bill.
The app I was listening to this on was free and available to anyone with a smart phone. It required very little effort to download and begin listening to. There are many similar apps available to people all over the world and even websites that archive public dispatch data going back months at a time. The governments of many third world countries don’t have positive relationships with the US. If an identity thief from one of these countries were to obtain someone’s personal information via a law enforcement broadcast, there would no chance of prosecution, much less return of the stolen assets.
My Investigation Into Negligence
For a little under two weeks I spent my spare time listening to the scanner to determine how big of a problem this actually was. I documented these broadcasts by utilizing the recording feature on the app. During this time frame I recorded approximately 10 incidents where personal information, including social security numbers, names, and addresses, were broadcast on this public frequency.
I compiled these recordings onto flash drives and attached them to complaints, which with the help of Civil Rights Attorney Stephen Wyse, were constructed to advise them of the situation and demand they take action to rectify it. The complaints were delivered to the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, The Springfield Police Department, Greene County Sheriff’s Department, and Springfield-Greene County 911 Emergency Communications.
The complaint details the laws I believe were violated via the public broadcasts:
*Drivers Privacy Protection Act 18 U.S. Code § – Prohibition on Release of Certain Personal Information From State Motor Vehicle Records
*Missouri Revised Statutes 610.035.1 State Entity Not to Disclose Social Security Number, Exceptions
*Missouri Revised Statutes 32.057 Confidentiality of Tax Returns and Department Records – Exceptions – Penalty For Violations. (Class E Felony)
Raw footage of my attorney Stephen Wyse and myself delivering a complaint to the Greene County Sheriff’s Department in Springfield, MO.
A History of Privacy Violations
As I detailed in my complaint, The City of Springfield has a proven history of leaking sensitive information, including social security numbers in conjunction with other personal information. In July of 2016 the City violated privacy laws by publishing the social security number, Driver’s License Number, name, and date of birth of City Councilwoman Kristi Fulnecky.
“That violated federal and state law . . . to have your government share your private information. I am a citizen of Springfield and they did this to me,” Councilwoman Fulnecky told Springfield, MO NBC affiliate KY3.
The legally private information leaked in councilwoman Fulnecky’s situation is almost identical to the information being leaked during the interactions uncovered during our investigation. The main difference between the two situations is that is that the City of Springfield was able to determine that 19 people accessed the councilwoman’s info before they were able to remove it, while a single police scanner app has numerous listeners focused on the Springfield, MO area alone. In addition, the City of Springfield has absolutely no way to contain the legally protected information wrongfully disclosed to the public or who has access to it thereafter.
The Solution To The Problem
As a private investigator with 28 years of experience who has dealt with identity theft on numerous occasions, I can’t stand by while law enforcement agencies leak sensitive information with impunity. In my complaint, I have asked for the following actions to be immediately taken.
1. Cease & Desist public transmission of legally protected private individual information
2. Training of Springfield Police Department, Greene County Sheriff Department and Springfield-Greene County Office of Emergency Management personnel in their duty to not disclose private information
3. Public reprimand for senior personnel in each of the above agencies for failing to train and/or supervise their subordinate personnel in complying with their legal duty to protect individual private information from wrongful disclosure.
I sincerely hope these agencies will take corrective action. Failing to do so could result in a serious breach of someone’s financial security, as well as destroying the community’s trust in their local law enforcement.
If you or someone you know believes they have had their private information publicly leaked by law enforcement contact me via this site’s Contact Submission Form. Please include the date, time, and agency involved.
Marshall & Associates, LLC.
Private Investigator MO