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Ex-St. Paul cop names names in suit over illegal data access

  • Article by: ERIC ROPER
  • Star Tribune
  • October 2, 2012 - 10:41 AM

A former Eden Prairie and St. Paul cop who says police across the state repeatedly checked her personal data without an official purpose is naming names in a lawsuit against the officers and their employers.

Anne Rasmusson is suing at least 16 cities and counties and more than 140 police officers who she says illegally accessed her information in a state drivers license and vehicle registration database as many as 550 times. She filed a federal suit in March, and sought to amend the complaint on Friday with an 88-page filing that lists every officer involved.

The access was most prevalent in the Twin Cities, where 46 Minneapolis police employees and 61 St. Paul police employees accessed Rasmusson's data, according to the complaint. The filing shows that Rasmusson's information was accessed regularly, at all hours, over a six-year period.

Court filings show the case was slated for a settlement conference all day Monday. One of Rasmusson's attorneys, Jon Strauss, said in an e-mail Monday evening that the conference was ongoing and they had "nothing to report right now."

The state's Driver and Vehicle Services database contains personal information on drivers, including photographs, physical descriptions, convictions and addresses. The information is protected under state and federal laws. Just last week, two Minneapolis employees were placed on paid leave for using the database without an official purpose.

Rasmusson's complaint claims that employees at 23 agencies across the state accessed her information between 2005 and 2012, based on an audit by the Department of Public Safety and information gathered during the discovery process. It says the city of Eden Prairie, for example, demoted Sgt. Carter Staaf after he encouraged subordinates to look Rasmusson up "because she was very attractive and so they could see that 'she's changed and she's got a new look.'"

One of the defendants, an unnamed sergeant in the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department, said he was out of the country when the alleged searches occurred, but had given his password to two Bureau of Criminal Apprehension employees he worked with on the Metro Gang Strike Force, according to the complaint. Those employees deny receiving or using the password, however.

A list included with the complaint reports that the most inquiries came from Rasmusson's ex-husband, Minneapolis police officer Jason King, between August 2006 and December 2010. Many of those occurred after 11 p.m. -- sometimes as late as 2 a.m. King could not be reached for comment.

A Minneapolis police spokesman, Sgt. Steve McCarty, said the department found that some officers had accessed the data inappropriately, but that no one was disciplined because they had no "ill intent." Officers were required to undergo coaching.

"After this, you can believe our policies got a lot ... stronger with regard to accessing DVS records," McCarty said.

St. Paul Police Department spokesman Howie Padilla said their investigation is not finished.

Rasmusson's suit, which also cites the state's public safety commissioner, says that illegal access "appears to be widespread and pervasive throughout departments, and is a custom and practice."

Rasmusson started her career in Eden Prairie in 1996, first as a park ranger and then as a police officer. She was injured in 1999 during a medical call. In 2001, she joined the St. Paul Police Department. Because of nerve damage and an unstable pelvis, she retired in 2003.

She requested an audit of inquiries about her DVS information after encountering officers at social gatherings who knew peculiar details about her, such as her address and the type of car she drove.

Eric Roper • 612-673-1732 Twitter: @StribRoper

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