MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — From the comforts of their cars and with the ease of their fingertips, police officers can pull up the facts and photos of anyone with a driver’s license. Sophisticated computer terminals in squad cars give them instant access to both criminal and driver data bases.

“Law enforcement needs this information to do their jobs,” said Department of Public Safety (DPS) spokesman, Andy Skoogman.

However, a Twin Cities woman is outraged that her license photo was accessed 425 times by more than 100 law enforcement personnel over a four-year period. In August, she filed a complaint with the department, setting off an internal inquiry. If her data was not being used for a legitimate law enforcement action, it constitutes a blatant abuse of the state’s data privacy laws.

“We don’t know why this person’s data is being accessed,” said Skoogman. “We’re asking law enforcement agencies to look into this to determine whether or not it was appropriate.”

On Aug. 30, 2011, the Department of Public Safety sent letters to 18 police and sheriff’s departments in Minnesota, including the FBI. The letter explained the possible misuse of the woman’s data and identified those individuals suspected of accessing the photograph. It concludes by asking for the departments to inform DPS of their findings.

“I think it will be a wake-up call,” said former Brooklyn Park Police Captain, Greg Roehl.

Before he retired from the force, Roehl worked with police to educate them about the seriousness of the state’s data practices law. Roehl said that driver’s license photographs that once took written requests and weeks to get, now transmit in mere seconds. The former captain explains that if it’s not needed for a traffic stop or investigation, it’s private and off limits.

“People forget that absolutely everything you do on a computer is traceable and retrievable and you can’t erase it,” Roehl said.

Call it computer fingerprints if you will. But without a lawful reason to look, a simple curiosity could land the officers in their own legal troubles.

“People are tracking and people are really concerned about their data and how it’s handled by the government,” Roehl added.

Comments (20)
  1. big brother says:

    No way, cops cheating, I don’t believe it. It’s a hard job and I thank them for keeping my streets somewhat safe but some of these guys were 50/50 on what side of the law they were on at 18. If you are concerned about the gov watching you it’s time to get off the grid because they watch you whenever they feel like and it’s not going to change.

  2. JL says:

    She must of been a hot one. Just saying.

  3. Doubtful Up North says:

    How did she find out that her info was accessed 425 times? Can I access how many times mine was looked at? I would love to know how she found out.

    1. DJ says:

      Yes, good question! How did she know that her info was accessed 425 times? this is not addressed in the article.

    2. chels says:

      yes..yes.. and id say should be the most imp. part of the article…uh hello! does she maybe have a police friend who was doing some illegal searching to and found that out for her?

  4. xxx says:

    So what is the average numbr of times that the average person who has a MN driver licence has his/her photo accessed?

    Maybe the average is 500 times. So, maybe she is below average.

  5. Bob says:

    I think we all would like to find out how many times we have been “looked up” I would like to know. It does not matter to me. But just wondering how she found out. Another great article that makes us guess with out any further information.

  6. EJ says:

    You can find out the information they have on you by FOIA. Aka Freedom Of Information Act. But by then, they will cover their tracks or lead you to a dead end.

  7. Inside job says:

    Think about it this riddle. How do police officers from 18 different departments know one woman’s name to look it up? Answer its because she is a cop!!!!. My guess is she was recently in trouble “sex scandal” . Granted looking up information for purposes such as entertainment is a stupid way to lose or take a loss of pay from a job. Or in some cases “coaching sessions”

  8. Keith says:

    That was an interesting story. Although it really doesn’t matter “how” she found out, the facts remain she did find out & there isn’t any reason to check anyone’s DL 425 times. I agree with the above theroy that she was probably a former officer in some scandel and probably hot. We are constantly watched, monitored and tracked. For those unaware General Motors vehicles with “On Star” track you and can record your conversations even if you have cancelled your subscription. They sell the info to cops and insurance companiers. When you order a pizza for delivery you’re run through the NCIC and in California the courts say it’s legal for a cop to search your cell phone without a warrnet. Look at the cameras everywhere. If you have one of those mini satellite dishes or a cable box they keep track of what channels you watch so they know what junk mail to send you. Some places in England when you take your newborn home you have a cemera in your house for the first six months to make sure you are a good parent. Don’t even think about what they’re doing with google and facebook. We live in strange times.

  9. BlackChoppers says:

    We warned you once …

  10. CROOKED COPS?? NO WAY !!! says:


  11. MARY says:


  12. wrongfully accused says:

    I strongly believe this is TRUE…I have been a mother and a straight A college student majoring in family counseling working toward my master’s in marriage and family therapy and went through a terrible hardship with my ex-fiancé. It lead to him threatening to commit suicide and I tried to stop him, he left the house while I called the police. The deputies question what happened, although it was a dysfunctional situation, I did not want to talk about his threat to harm himself or that the situation involved a firearm, because of a prior incident when a deputy was summoned. The prior incident included my exact information BUT somehow they got my fiancé’s information incorrect, in fact it was the man that was the previous owner who in fact had been deceased for several years, coincidental isn’t it??!! So this last incident I ended up arrested because he told the deputies I “threatened” him and shot of the hunting rifle, even though I had not when the cops came I rose to his defense because of the control he implemented onto to me and the children on a daily basis. He lied several times in his statement and while reading the transcriptions, he openly admitted to “threatening to end his life” BUT somehow I got turned into the liar and am now facing charges. These individuals work for search and rescue, the fire Dept., and the power company…it’s the “Good Ole Boys Club” after all….my record is clean while my ex has a 5th degree assault, a public assist where he admitted he threatened to harm himself because he was “angry” and in the last incident also admitted to “just end his life to make it easier.” he threw me under the bus, and the deputies bought into it and on top of it, that deputy told another officer that took pictures of my injuries that he did not need them….hhhmmmm, something is wrong with this picture.

    1. Blah, blah, blah... says:

      You must like talking to yourself…

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