Legislation Aims to End Police Abuse of Privileged Information

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Some police officers are using the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN) — a computer system developed to help fight crime — to spy on the general public for their own personal gain.

"They've taken advantage of an information source that we have provided them to do good police work, and they've used it for their own purposes," Jeff Sauter of the LEIN Oversight Board said. "It's wrong."

State police know of more than 90 cases of abuse in the last five years.

One is even part of a murder investigation. A state trooper has admitted to using LEIN to check up on his estranged wife. He may have hired someone to kill her, according to police.

LEIN was also used against another woman, Cathy McGuigan, during a bitter custody battle.

"My former husband, who was a police officer with the city of Troy, ran the license plate on my new husband," she said.

Complaints also claim LEIN has been used to stalk women, to get dirt on candidates in political campaigns and to get phone numbers for officers wanting dates.
LEIN abuse is a misdemeanor and most officers slide by. McGuigan's husband got a week's suspension without pay.

"All too often, people in the judiciary, people in law enforcement, feel they're above the law," McGuigan said.

"They probably have good reason to feel that, because very often they get no punishment," she said.

The way LEIN works now, the state justice board that oversees it has only one way of punishing a violator, and that is to deny access to everyone.

"Shutting down a whole police department because of one idiot, I don't think is in order or good practice," State Sen. Chris Dingell, D-Taylor, said.

Dingell is pushing legislation designed to block access to individuals who abuse the LEIN system.

"I want people who are misusing that information to not have access to that information," he said.

The bill is expected to be signed into law this fall.