ELPD Accidentally Releases Sensitive Documents

Thursday, July 25, 2019, 12:30 pm
By: 
Alice Dreger

A clerk for the East Lansing Police Department meant to send two arrest case reports to the City Attorney’s office this week, apparently for purposes of prosecution. Instead, she accidentally sent the two sets of documents to ELPD’s media list.

The two sets of documents sent out via a mass emailing on July 23 included information about two individuals arrested, including their home addresses, dates of birth, drivers license numbers, and cell phone numbers. In one case, breathalyzer results were included, and, in the other, information about outstanding warrants.

Once the clerk realized what she had done, she immediately sent a series of requests to reporters on the list to delete the email and contents.

Asked for comment, ELPD Deputy Chief Steve Gonzalez told ELi, “The matter is under review to determine how and why this occurred. We will be examining our internal procedures to determine if any of these processes need to be changed to ensure an instance such as this does not occur in the future.”

Gonzalez did not specifically respond to questions about whether such sensitive documents are normally sent by email and whether or not the two individuals whose records were released had been contacted.

ELi reached one of the individuals affected. She is a 30-year-old white woman from St. Johns, who was arrested for allegedly speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol.

She told ELi that she had been contacted by the City by phone to be told there had been some kind of accidental release. She did not understand exactly what had happened and did not wish to provide comment on the record to ELi at this time.

The other individual is a 23-year-old African American man whose home addresses are listed as Detroit and Lansing and who also has what is shown as a “school” address in East Lansing. According to the arrest report, he was stopped for having a large crack in his car’s windshield.

The arresting officer’s report says that a record searched “showed two current suspensions on his driver’s license as well as five total warrants” including for three “failures to appear” in court in East Lansing. The man was consequently arrested. ELi has been unable to reach him.

ELi contacted Council member Aron Stephens, who is the Council liaison to the East Lansing Human Relations Commission (HRC), for comment. The HRC deals with civil rights and has recently been interested in instituting a system for formal citizen review of citizen complaints made against East Lansing police and fire officers.

Said Stephens by email, “These people deserved their own due process, their privacy, and that has been broken through this mistake. Everyone has sent an email to the wrong address before but this goes over the line.”

Stephens added, “No matter your crime, you have your own rights. I am still asking questions and waiting on answers to know what is going to be done about this to make it right by these individuals, and what is being done to make sure this never happens again. I express my sincerest apologies to those affected by this and their families. They deserve better.”

Some of the information released would be available to the public through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). But, ordinarily, any arrest case reports released via FOIA are redacted to protect certain sensitive items that are exempted from FOIA release according to state law.

 

 

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