Denver monitor urges steep penalty for crime database abuse

Denver's independent police monitor says officers caught using confidential criminal databases for personal reasons get only light punishments, allowing the abuse to continue.

The problem involves the National Crime Information Center, a database used by police across the country to catch criminals, recover stolen property and identify terrorism suspects.

Monitor Nicholas Mitchell says in a report released Tuesday that 25 officers have been punished for misusing the database for personal reasons since 2006. But Mitchell says most of them received only reprimands.

Those cases include an officer who looked up the phone number of a female hospital employee during a sex assault investigation and called her at home against her wishes. Another officer used the database to get a man's personal information on behalf of a friend, who then threatened the man.