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Lake County CA Sheriff's Department
Friday May 3rd, 2013 :: 03:05 p.m. PDT

Sheriff clarifies RiMS audit and restrictions

The most recent media coverage of the actions I took to reign in unauthorized and unnecessary access to the Sheriff’s Report Information Management System (RiMS), used fear tactics and biased reporting to portray an inaccurate scenario of public and officer safety that must be explained by putting the sound-bites in context.

RiMS is a confidential and legally protected information system. Safety is of paramount importance and I want to assure the citizens of Lake County that the actions I took do not jeopardize public or officer safety. The true threat to officer and public safety is in criminals getting a hold of law enforcement sensitive information through unauthorized release. Those with the right and need to know can still access the appropriate information to do their jobs safely while protecting the important privacy rights of citizens.

Contrary to the media portrayals of this matter, it is the unfettered and unmonitored access to RiMS, such as was allowed under former management that can, and did, lead to abuses. These abuses not only violate the privacy rights of citizens but also jeopardize public and officer safety and undermine the very necessary and noble efforts of law enforcement agencies.

Because RiMS is my responsibility and leaks and abuses by some personnel have been a problem, I have been auditing RiMS in order to assess the nature and scope of the problem and take corrective steps. When I brought some of the irregularities and abuses to my contemporaries, including the District Attorney, the LPD Chief and the Lake County Probation Chief, I expected a different reaction. As leaders in their respective areas of responsibility they are accountable to the public and responsible for their employees. Instead of showing concern, and a willingness to take corrective measures, their response was defensive.

To date, these law enforcement leaders have not expressed concern or accepted personal responsibility for solving the problem. That they would be a party to instilling needless fear in our community is frankly alarming and irresponsible. Because of their non-action, I had to take action.

It is important to understand that the Lakeport Police Department (LPD), as well as the Clearlake Police Department (CPD) have their own RiMS. Sheriff’s Office personnel do not have unfettered access to their systems. The standard convention when one law enforcement entity has a legitimate need for information maintained by another is to cooperate, but not by direct access. Each agency controls access to the information systems they collect and manage. That is the proper protocol.

LPD Chief Rasmussen’s complaint regarding access to the Sheriff’s Office RiMS concerned contracted dispatching services from the Sheriff’s Office and LPD’s need for call logs that are collected by our Computer Assisted Dispatch System to complete reports. But under the previous method of accessing the logs, they also had unrestricted access to the private personal information of anyone in RiMS. The LPD was provided an alternative method that meets their needs without compromising the privacy rights of citizens or officer safety. They are currently using the alternative method and I have offered to provide training if they need it.

To be clear, the LPD still has appropriate, limited, access to RiMS under an inter-operability agreement with multiple law enforcement agencies. This agreement covers our co-operative relationship with law enforcement agencies in the region including the police departments in the Cities of Clearlake, Calistoga, Saint Helena, and, of course, Lakeport. This agreement is still in place and needs no changes.

RiMS is a complicated and in depth information database which needs monitoring or abuses can go undetected, such as the probation officer who had access while being investigated for threatening another probation officer. A more common example of abuse is when officers use their access privileges to check backgrounds and reports on themselves or for friends and associates. In a recent incident, an LPD officer looked at and changed information on his wife and himself. Another incident involved former Chief Deputy Russell Perdock’s unauthorized access to the criminal investigation reports related to his boating accident on Clearlake. Also, a third party investigation by California Judicial Investigations examined the use of RiMS by DA investigators, finding excessive, unauthorized and illegal use. These are but a few instances uncovered in my audits of RiMS.

Unauthorized and or unnecessary access to RiMS is a crime. It is shameful that for lack of leadership and proper management, years of RiMS abuses have been tolerated. Vital to the public trust is ensuring that access levels to private information including criminal and other personal history data are judiciously guarded. Therefore, it is essential that logins and pass codes are updated or eliminated as officers and users change jobs, leave the agency or are placed on administrative leave during internal affairs investigations.

Now that this issue is out in the open perhaps our local leaders will take responsibility to work with me to ensure the public’s right to privacy is protected as well as the safety of our dedicated personnel. This is accomplished by adhering to the California Department of Justice standards of requiring a right to know and a need to know before the information is accessed and disseminated.

Lake County CA Sheriff's Department
1220 Martin St
Lakeport, CA 95453

Emergency: 9-1-1
Non-emergencies: 707-263-2690

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