ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A federal jury in Minnesota has awarded $585,000 to a police officer who alleged that 58 fellow officers from the Minneapolis Police Department broke a federal privacy law by searching for her driver’s license data without a lawful purpose.
The jury returned its verdict Wednesday in St. Paul in favor of Amy Krekelberg. Her attorneys said other officers improperly searched for her private data 87 times from 2009 to 2013 — accessing information including her photograph, address, age, height, and weight — inflicting emotional distress in the process. The city is considering an appeal.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement Friday that the case was one of 14 federal lawsuits across the country making similar claims, and that it highlights the need for stronger data protections. It was also one of many such cases filed in Minnesota in recent years, most of which resulted in settlements.
“The Minnesota case shows that without strong protections, police officers may abuse their data access – even by invading the privacy of their fellow officers, particularly women,” said Sarah St. Vincent, a researcher at Human Rights Watch who observed the trial. “As Congress and the states consider adopting stronger data protections, they should limit what police can do with personal information.”
Former St. Paul officer Anne Rasmusson sued several Minnesota communities in 2012 after she requested an audit of searches for her driver’s license data and learned that officers had looked up her photo and other data over 500 times. She won settlements of more than $1 million, and the publicity from her case spurred a wave of dozens of lawsuits against over 150 cities across Minnesota, including cases filed by TV personalities and other civilians.
Krekelberg filed her lawsuit in 2013 after requesting a similar audit. Court records show that Krekelberg reached settlements earlier with several other Minnesota communities. St. Paul agreed to pay her $29,500 in 2017. The lookups happened both while she was a Minneapolis Park Police officer and after she joined the Minneapolis Police Department in 2012, her lawyers alleged.
“We are exploring options for challenging the verdict,” Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal said in an interview. “This is the last of this series of Driver Privacy Protection Act cases involving the city. The allegations in these cases involve lookups that happened many years ago, and the city and the police department in particular have taken many measures since then to make sure that we are protecting data privacy.”
(© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)