Queensland police have been warned to diarise their access to the internal database amid an ongoing crackdown by the corruption watchdog.
Four officers have been stood down and charged with “computer hacking” since May over allegedly inappropriate access, with one officer, Senior Constable David Neuman found not guilty of the allegation.
The crackdown has caused tension between the Queensland Police Union and the Crime and Corruption Commission.
In president Ian Leavers’ latest entry for the monthly union journal he warned officers the Queensland Police Service hierarchy would not hesitate to charge them with inappropriately accessing the QPRIME database, which contains sensitive information including criminal history.
“If we listen to the hierarchy, apparently we’re in the middle of an ‘epidemic’ of computer hacking,” he said.
“Now I am not for a moment suggesting police should look up people on the computer without a good reason, however we are now seeing police who are performing good police work being charged and taken to court for the bizarre charge of ‘computer hacking’.”
Last week, he slammed the decision to charge Senior Constable Neumann, telling the ABC it was “absolutely disgraceful” and said police were afraid to properly investigate cases.
But CCC chairman Alan MacSporran QC hit back, saying the case was “somewhat unusual” and involved “unique facts”.
“I accept that there will sometimes be cases where the distinction between work and non-work related purposes are blurred. These occasions call for the exercise of sound judgement,” he said in a statement.
“However, it cannot be seriously suggested that looking up the personal details of the captain of a Queensland netball team, using the QPS database to determine if people from whom you buy drugs for personal use are under investigation or accessing personal information about individuals identified on dating services is anything but clear examples of misusing information.
“These are just a number of instances of officers unlawfully accessing the QPS database which have been considered by the CCC in recent times.”
A QPS spokeswoman said the service considered the misuse use of information on its systems to be a serious matter.
“The reason for access of information must be connected to an officer’s duty, otherwise it may be considered misconduct, and consideration may be given to criminal charges being applied where appropriate,” she said.
In his journal article Mr Leavers suggested officers make a “notebook entry” for every computer check, detailing “who, what and why” and explaining why it was relevant to their duty.
He urged officers not to perform any check related to their personal lives or release any information from the system.
“The hierarchy does not care what you think your duty is,” he wrote.
“If they assess that you are using information systems inappropriately, they will not hesitate to charge you.
“It should also be clearly emphasised that the bar for what they deem inappropriate is not very high.
“Such things as checking a suspect car in your street could be regarded as computer hacking.”