School District Routinely Abused Access To Law Enforcement Database; Suspended Whistleblower Who Exposed It

from the like-any-other-criminal-enterprise,-the-government-hates-snitches dept

Give enough people access to sensitive information and abuse is inevitable. We've covered multiple incidents of law enforcement database misuse by police officers. Some have used their access to track former spouses. Others use it to harvest info on potential partners, supplementing the minimal personal data supplied by internet dating sites.

But it's not just law enforcement officers abusing this access. It's also abused by public employees who have been granted access to these databases. Jose Gaspar of Bakersfield.com details the apparent routine misuse of database access by school administrators.

Kern High School District administrators and other employees misused a criminal database to investigate students, and while sheriff’s officials recommended criminal charges against two, no one was prosecuted, according to documents obtained this past week.

The chief of police for the school district (Joe Lopeteguy) suspected unauthorized use of access of the CLETS (California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System) database so he asked the Kern County Sheriff's Office to investigate. The office confirmed Chief Lopeteguy's suspicions.

The report says KHSD police accessed CLETS to get information about a special education student for unknown reasons; an employee who’d filed a workers’ compensation claim with the district; and about 30 student athletes.

What tipped Chief Lopeteguy off was a request sent to him by the athletics director asking him to run a student's plates. Lopeteguy told the requester he wouldn't because such a search would be illegal. Apparently, this was the first time the athletics director had been told "no."

Shortly after, the chief reportedly said, he received an email from his boss, KHSD Director of Pupil Personnel Otis Jennings, wondering what was going on.

The message from Jennings read, “This is something we've done in the past through the chief for purposes of the district.”

The former school police chief (Mike Collier) admitted to approving these (apparently illegal) search requests in the past. Both the athletic director and personnel director had submitted multiple database search requests, often without informing Collier of their plans. The district's police dispatcher -- who ultimately controlled database access -- confirmed this.

[The dispatcher] told investigators that [athletics director] Greene would come in with a list of licenses to run, but she would only run requests under Collier's order and with him providing his CLETS identification number. According to the report, Stonecipher also said Jennings would make CLETS requests and she would direct him to Collier.

Collier apparently approved the 246 database searches performed using his credentials during the 2014-15 school year, even though a majority of them were for information school staff wasn't allowed to obtain via the law enforcement database.

Investigators tried to speak to Collier about his search history but he lawyered up and refused to cooperate. The other administrators named in the investigation also refused to speak to the Sheriff's Office.

Not that their refusal to cooperate ultimately matters. The Sheriff's Office recommended bringing charges against Collier and Jennings for their access violations, but the District Attorney decided not to prosecute. The only person being punished for this abuse is the man who reported it: Chief Lopeteguy.

During the investigation, on May 13, KHSD placed Lopeteguy on administrative leave. Lopeteguy told investigators the district was accusing him of misusing CLETS and of incompetence.

Lopeteguy was reinstated two months later but claims -- via a $2.3 million lawsuit against the district -- that he's still being harassed by district staff, who have gone so far as to attempt to have the Sheriff's Office investigate him for abuse of the CLETS database.

Here we see the government acting in two of its standard roles: the routine abuser of access to information citizens are required to provide it with, and as the punisher of whistleblowers who expose this abuse. Neither of these actions serve the public in any way, shape or form, making a mockery of the term "public servant."


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  • identicon
    Tony, 1 Sep 2016 @ 4:16am

    Accusing him of the same crime he exposed. That is so textbook pathological. In situations like this, we are lucky (and hopefully Chief Lopeteguy) that these bureaucrats lack any imagination.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 6:55am

      Re:

      Psychological projection is a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_projection

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 2 Sep 2016 @ 11:56pm

      Re:

      It's EXTREMELY common for police who realize they went too far in assaulting/battering someone (arrest optional) to arrest that person for assaulting/battering the police -- apparently on the theory that repeatedly involuntarily contacting someone's knuckles vigorously with your face is entirely your fault.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 4:24am

    Good cops when they refuse to "play ball" are systematically weeded out by the bad cops. It's not that there are a few bad apples... It's that there happen to still be a few good apples that are left, making life inconvenient for the bad apples.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 1 Sep 2016 @ 4:48am

    That's reassuring

    As always nice to see the priorities that DA's and police have when it comes to their own.

    Violate the law, blatantly and in literally hundreds of cases? No big deal, brush it under the rug.

    Expose said violations and possibly force those responsible to deal with awkward question that (theoretically) might damage their careers? Oh you better believe the hammer is coming down on your head, 'official' or not.

    It's nice that at least one of them gives a damn about what is and is not legal, and respects the rights and privacy of the students, but it sounds like they are very much in the minority in that area.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 5:35am

    School....

    The American Education system is a fucking joke all the way to College. It is standing proof of the idiocy of the American People.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 6:59am

      Re: School....

      If by "The American Education system" you mean charter schools, then yes - they are a huge joke perpetrated upon the unsuspecting tax paying public who are being massively ripped off by money grubbing assholes.

      Does this mean all citizens of the us of a are idiots?
      Of course not, what are you .. some kind of idiot?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 7:36am

        Re: Re: School....

        ALL OF IT!!!

        Charter Schools are hardly an exception. The entire system is fraud rich. Public schools are rife with terrible standards and requirements. Teachers are in unions when they do not belong. They KNOWINGLY & falsely claim they are for students when they never have been. The Administrative sides all waste money on inflated salaries for people not actually doing the teaching while those doing these teaching deserve more. They regularly fight against progress in education while parroting that they are for progress. Teachers frequently verbally and emotionally abuse students and belittle their efforts and accomplishments. College is a fucking sham, unnecessary course requirement to stack the bills, INSANE education loans, sub par quality of materials and expertise, and rife with indoctrination across the ENTIRE SPECTRUM!

        That is just a smattering of the problems with the education system in America. It is so rotten you would have to sit through hours of explanations to even begin to comprehend.

        By the time a person is 18 years old, they should have mastered at least one professional skill. College should only be necessary for people looking to radically alter their career, like say from Doctor, to Lawyer!

        The system is not even remotely capable of producing high quality scholars... every scholar that is a scholar is despite attending College, not because they attended, other than that little piece of bullshit paper of course.

        Anyone that truly wishes to learn, will learn!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 8:14am

          Re: Re: Re: School....

          You're one of those radicals who wear a towel on your head?
          Most of the civilized world encourage education, why do you oppose it?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 8:23am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: School....

            No, just someone who looks at the insanity of it all and asks why in hell are you all okay with ruining the children with this ghastly system?

            I very much encourage education, but not as we are doing it. It could be greatly improved, however all I see is news regarding kids being arrested for doodling on desks, having bad body odor, and administrations outright lying about attendance records with very little repercussion.

            But hey, glad you joined the conversation and accused me of saying something I did not say. Way to go!!! You must be a product of the Education System I just railed against.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Mason Wheeler (profile), 1 Sep 2016 @ 7:42am

        Re: Re: School....

        Don't feed the trolls. Just click the flag button and move on.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 8:15am

          Re: Re: Re: School....

          If you have nothing constructive to add, then you become the troll when you post things like that.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 8:18am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: School....

            .. and what you posted is constructive, how exactly?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 8:30am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: School....

              Keep in mind, anyone can call an argument that do not like as not constructive. What is or is not constructive is much like art. It is all in the eye of the beholder. Which is to say, entirely your opinion.

              What I see instead is a group of individuals not liking what I have to say about things. So far I have been met with "troll", "unconstructive", or "towel head".

              If you ad hominem attacks are the ONLY rebuttal you have then I would say you are the troll, and are acting just like the people attacking the whistle blower in this article. You have become like the subjects this article is talking about. I am the whistle blower, and you all are attacking me for it.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 1 Sep 2016 @ 6:55am

    You know, what about we start hurting the abusers where it hurts, their pockets? And if hte lawsuit concerning the harassment succeeds, what about we send the bill to those involved in the harassment? Hurt the most sensitive human organ, the pocket, and I'm sure future idiots will think twice before being idiots.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 1 Sep 2016 @ 6:56am

    Seriously, Tim?

    Calling the government "a criminal enterprise" makes you look like the worst of the worst Libertarian nutcases who troll the comments here. I expected a bit more professionalism from the authors...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 7:31am

      Re: Seriously, Tim?

      Its fitting, don't take it out of context to push your agenda.

      "from the like-any-other-criminal-enterprise,-the-government-hates-snitches dept"

      Criminal enterprises hate snitches and deal with them in unpleasant manners.

      Chief Lopeteguy snitches and was dealt with in an unpleasant manner by the police.

      Quite clearly the police were acting *like* a criminal enterprise that hates snitches.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 7:49am

      Re: Seriously, Tim?

      The Government IS a criminal enterprise.

      The Founding Fathers of the USA said as much. There is a reason that they said..

      The price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and that the natural flow of government is to head towards tyranny, and that it is better to deal with the inconveniences of too much liberty than to endure problems caused by too small a degree of it.

      The Institution of Government has destroyed more lives, land, and property than any other human act or institution. Not even WAR, even all combined, has equaled the Evil, Destructive, Corrupt, and Illegal activity of Government Institutions.

      Government is a Legal Racket. You should never trust it, and you should always keep it in check. If you trust it, you just invited corruption in by the front door!

      You can bet that an enormous amount of illegal activity is caused by government agents and agencies.

      Government is ALWAYS corrupt for it is a corruption to begin with but viewed as necessary by pretty much anyone without wisdom.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Quiet Lurcker, 1 Sep 2016 @ 10:41am

      Re: Seriously, Tim?

      Not libertarian, just a bit more cynical than the average libertarian, I should think.

      The government is a criminal enterprise, by the duck test or by Occam's razor. Agreed: some of what the government does can be explained by Hanlon's razor. But, I seriously think that proportion is (perhaps alarmingly) small.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 10:49am

      Re: Seriously, Tim?

      Don't feed this troll. Just click the flag button and move on.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 2 Sep 2016 @ 5:51am

      Re: Seriously, Tim?

      A terrorist organization would be more appropriate don't you agree?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 7:52am

    Glad to see the dispatcher not persecuted

    While it would have been really good to hear that the dispatcher flat out refused to run the illegal searches, I can appreciate that she felt pressured to run searches ordered by a superior officer. I am genuinely glad that she at least made them go to the trouble of having that superior officer rubber-stamp those searches, rather than accept the requests directly and solely from people not authorized to perform the searches. It would be even better if the government were not persecuting the whistleblower, but at least the dispatcher seems to have been left alone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 9:12am

    ...is anyone else confused by the fact that a school administrator would have any access at all to any kind of law enforcement database? Because that, to me, seems much more newsworthy than, oh look everyone is corrupt as @#$%.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 1 Sep 2016 @ 10:34am

      Re:

      ...is anyone else confused by the fact that a school administrator would have any access at all to any kind of law enforcement database?

      They didn't, that's why the had to ask the police.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sadiq Mohamed, 1 Sep 2016 @ 9:34am

    School District .....

    Why does a School District have a Police Chief?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 10:11am

    Upper Class reinforcement

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 10:19am

    SCMODS

    They should have made their requests through SCMODS.

    SCMODS?

    State, County, Municipal Offender Data System.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 10:25am

    Someone let the FBI know

    CLET is guaranteed to connect to the National Crime Information Center system, thus they have access to Criminal Justice Information controlled by the FBI.

    See 28 CFR Part 20 Subparts A, B, and C. Also Part 23.

    I see sanctions coming to the Kern County Sheriff's office from the FBI on this screw up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Sep 2016 @ 10:11am

      Re: Someone let the FBI know

      Too right. Expect accreditation to be withdrawn.

      Criminal data in most countries is classified as RESTRICTED or higher, and is typically only accessible to people with security clearances, often higher than those held by regular police officers.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 2 Sep 2016 @ 5:50am

    honest cops are not wanted in most states it seems. They get driven out, they end up dead or they get trumped up charges forcing them to quit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    GEMont (profile), 2 Sep 2016 @ 11:46am

    None so blind as those who refuse to see.

    Perhaps if we make a pair of charts, showing on one chart, the standard machinations of all Law Enforcement Minion activities that are typical of any fascist pseudo- government, and on the other chart, a list of the actions that the USG, DOJ and all of America's In Justice Minions have taken over the last decade.

    Maybe then Americans will be able to see that there is no difference between the two charts, and thus the two forms of population control, whatsoever.

    And if it walks like duck...

    ---

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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