Pines officer tapped into confidential databases 560 times to snoop on others
A Pembroke Pines police officer used confidential databases as her personal snooping tools, tapping more than 500 times into sensitive information on her fellow officers, her boyfriend’s ex-wife and others, according to an internal affairs report.
Melodie Carpio focused most often on her boyfriend’s ex-wife, who she looked up 79 times on her city-issued laptop, and the ex-wife’s husband, who she searched out 82 times.
The two contacted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement last April after they started receiving anonymous emails, the ex-wife’s social media accounts were hacked and she began receiving numerous unsolicited phone calls from loan agencies.
They suspected Carpio was the culprit, based on a history of bitterness between the two couples. And the FDLE confirmed their suspicions: Carpio, a 12-year veteran of the force, had run numerous unauthorized searches on them.
As FDLE was looking into the matter, the Pines police department’s internal affairs division launched a separate investigation in May. When confronted with records showing 560 unauthorized searches dating back to 2013, Carpio told investigators she was curious.
Carpio, a 40-year-old road patrol officer, could not be reached for comment. She was suspended without pay for approximately three months and required to sign an agreement that if she did it again, she would be terminated.
Her boyfriend is also a Pembroke Pines police officer but investigators determined he did not make any unauthorized searches of the Driver and Vehicle Information Database, the Florida Crime Information Center, and National Crime Information Center.
“The reason why [police] have access to such personal and sensitive data to begin with is that they are expected to do the right thing with it,” said Nancy Abudu, the legal director of the ACLU of Florida. “But clearly there are some rogue officers using it for inappropriate purposes. This is a prime example of why we as an organization are concerned.”
“This case exemplifies the commitment to accountability,” Police Chief Dan Guistino said Tuesday. “Our internal audit process discovered the violation and we took significant disciplinary action.”
According to The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were approximately 400 violations of use of the driver database in 2014 and 2015, the latest years for which statistics are available.
Since 2011, the department started using a coding system that requires police to enter a reason for their search, and each time someone signs on, he or she has to agree to use the the database for law enforcement purposes.
Carpio was hired by Pembroke Pines in Oct. 2004. While on patrol in April 2009, she checked on a vehicle behind a shopping center and determined that a woman inside was attempting suicide by overdose. Carpio was credited with saving the woman’s life. She also received four commendations and nine letters of recognition in other cases.
The Pines police department has reprimanded seven officers since 2012 for violating the computer policy, but none of those cases has resulted in criminal charges. Investigators forwarded Carpio’s case to the State Attorney’s Office, which declined to seek criminal charges.
Jeff Marano, president of the Broward County Police Benevolent Association, said the union often reminds its members that the databases are not for personal use.
“In most of the cases, it involves younger officers who don’t realize the severity of it because they are accustomed to having technology and social media at their fingertips,” Marano said. “I would agree that what this officer did was excessive in terms of the number of times, but certainly I think the penalty fits the violation.”