This story is courtesy of the Better Government Association:
The Illinois State Police runs a law enforcement database with sensitive information about drivers and criminal suspects. After BGA inquiries, the agency now plans to “look into” whether the teenage son of DuPage County’s sheriff was misusing the system.
We recently discovered that the teenage son of DuPage County Sheriff John Zaruba was given access to a confidential law enforcement database, even though he isn’t a deputy or officially employed by his father’s agency.
Told of the situation, numerous Chicago-area law enforcement officials said it was totally inappropriate – and, perhaps, a violation of the rules – for the sheriff’s office to help Zaruba’s then-17-year-old son Patrick become certified to use the Illinois Law Enforcement Agencies Data System, or LEADS.
LEADS is to be used only for criminal justice purposes. We can’t think of a legitimate reason why a teenager with no police powers would need access to a database with information on every licensed driver in Illinois, as well as sensitive law enforcement intelligence on gang members, fugitives and more.
It’s easy to point the finger at Sheriff Zaruba, but another party needs some scrutiny here – the Illinois State Police, which oversees LEADS and approved Patrick Zaruba’s certification in November 2010.
Sheriff Zaruba wouldn’t tell us why he helped his son obtain LEADS access, or explain why the privilege was needed in the first place. He also was tight-lipped when it came to the subjects of any LEADS searches his son may have conducted.
As overseers of the system, the State Police also has the power to find out who or what Patrick Zaruba has looked up and determine if those searches were legitimate.
After initially saying it couldn’t investigate unless a formal complaint was filed, the State Police changed its stance this week. An agency spokeswoman now says that officials “will look into the matter,” although wouldn’t commit to reviewing what LEADS searches Patrick Zaruba may have conducted.
The BGA had already asked the sheriff’s office for the same data via the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, which compels government agencies to release public documents. But the sheriff’s office refused to turn over anything.
As a result, the BGA filed a lawsuit last week in Cook County Circuit Court alleging the sheriff violated the state’s FOIA law. The State Police was not named as a party in that lawsuit.
“We are concerned anytime sensitive information is compromised or accessed unlawfully,” State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond said in an emailed statement.
“At this time there is no evidence that misuse has occurred . . . However, the [State Police] LEADS Administrator will look into the matter as a result of the BGA allegations.”
Glad they’re following our leads.
This column was written and reported by the BGA’s Andrew Schroedter. To reach him, email email@example.com or call (312) 821-9035.
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WATCH a previous report on DuPage County Sheriff John Zaruba and his teenage son: