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Old 2008-07-27
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Exclamation Maryland: Photo Police Accused of Privacy Invasion

Article: Maryland: Photo Police Accused of Privacy Invasion

Isiah Leggett and Captain John DamskeyPolice used an official database to look up personal information on a speed camera opponent on behalf of a Montgomery County, Maryland politician. The incident occurred after motorist Mark Romanoff had written to County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) urging him to drop the use of "peeping tom" speed cameras in the name of privacy. Romanoff told TheNewspaper that he was shocked by the response.

"Please consider had you been stopped for speeding by a uniformed police officer your three citations would have cost you much more than the established $40 as well as placed points on your license," Montgomery County Police Captain John A. Damskey wrote in an email to Romanoff. "For example, November 18 your 54mph in a 30mph zone and December 22 your 50mph in a 30mph zone would have cost you $160 and placed 2 points on your license for each event."

Romanoff's forty-two word email to Leggett never mentioned any of these incidents, nor did it mention the fact that he was an avid motorcyclist. But Captain Damskey's extensive response singled out the fact that Romanoff enjoyed riding motorcycles.

"I do find it appalling that a letter to the county council president should result in having a police official look up my driving record," Romanoff said. "This is another example of my complaint against the ongoing invasion of privacy enabled by evolving technology."

Montgomery County Police did not immediately respond to a request for a copy of the department's written policy regarding the acceptable use of police database information. The county's ethics code does prohibit public employees from using intimidation to interfere with "a person's freedom to engage in political activity" (Section 19A-14e).

A similar incident happened in Edmonton, Canada in 2004. After local columnist Kerry Diotte wrote a scathing commentary against the city's photo radar program, Edmonton Police Sergeant Bill Newton ordered a subordinate to obtain information about Diotte from a confidential police database. Newton used this information to order traffic officers to target the columnist's BMW. An attempt to frame Diotte for drunk driving was later uncovered, resulting in an extensive investigation into the privacy breach by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. More
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