After several years of auditing police departments across Florida to determine whether their officers uphold the First Amendment and the law of the land, Photography Is Not A Crime’s Jeff Gray has had his driver’s license and vehicle tag information searched by police well over 200 times.
Gray’s request for the record of who accessed his information on the state-operated Driver and Vehicle Information Database (DAVID) turned up police officer after police officer running Gray’s vehicle plate and driver’s license.
PINAC is now working to cross-check the dates of when Gray’s records were run against the times when Gray conducted First Amendment audits. It’s safe to say that few people would be surprised to learn that officers ran Gray’s record in the DAVID system simply because Gray was recording video in public.
On October 22, 2013, Gray, along with PINAC Publisher Carlos Miller and public records guru Joel Chandler, were detained by Coral Gables police after making a public records request as you can see in the above photo. The following day, Gray was arrested by Brevard County deputies for recording a traffic stop.
During the arrest, one of the deputies mentioned that Gray had been detained by Coral Gables a day earlier – automatically branding him a troublemaker – when he hadn’t broken the law in either case. Both dates are documented in the report Gray obtained last week along with the corresponding agencies.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is in charge of the system, but employees from local, state and federal agencies across the state can access the information. The system holds not only people’s license records, but social security information, addresses, photos, marital status, and even bank information.
Unsurprisingly, there have been multiple reports of officers abusing the DAVID system for a variety of reasons, including an employee from the Broward County Clerk’s office who caught stealing social security numbers from the DAVID system to commit identity theft. WFTV News reported that 155 police agencies self-reported abuse of the system dating back to January 2013.
Former Seminole County deputy William Santiago-Gines was stripped of his law enforcement certification after accessing information on more than 125 people, including celebrities, co-workers and ex-girlfriends. Former Martin County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Salvatore Rastrelli, refers to DAVID as “Facebook for cops” (as if they’re not busy enough stalking our real Facebook pages).
After state trooper Donna Watts pulled over a Miami police officer for speeding and handcuffed him, dozens of officers looked up Watts’ private information. Watts filed a federal lawsuit in December 2012 against more than 100 officers and agencies, alleging 88 law enforcers from 25 agencies viewed her private information more than 200 times.
Florida resident and government gadfly Jeff Frazier, who runs the site Seminole Watch, has also filed a lawsuit regarding misuse of DAVID. Frazier filed suit after Sgt. Timothy Fekany of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office accessed Frazier’s records without a legitimate purpose, which Fekany admitted. Now Orange County is spending taxpayer dollars to defend Fekany, who faces a fine of $2,500.
While anyone caught abusing the system can lose access to it or face criminal charge, in a majority of cases DAVID abusers are merely given a reprimand or counseling. If even that.
To obtain a report on who has accessed your records, you can send your request to: DAVIDPublicRecordRequest@flhsmv.gov . Your request should include your name, the tag or driver’s license number as well as a timeframe for the search. The request could be free, or, if you’re Jeff Gray with over 200 instances of record access to pull up, cost over $90.