Saturday, February 24, 2018
Public safety

Clearwater officer to be disciplined for improper use of database

CLEARWATER — Internal investigators say a Clearwater police commander used a law enforcement database more than 100 times during a two-year period for "questionable" purposes, inappropriately looking up personal information about individuals including his ex-wife's boyfriend, a television news reporter and the wives of other police officers.

A summary of the internal investigation, obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, shows that Lt. Richard Crean, 46, of the Clearwater Police Department searched the Florida Driver and Vehicle Information Database, commonly called DAVID, to obtain information about 54 people without an obvious connection to law enforcement work.

Crean's research covered a strange assortment of professional contacts, private acquaintances and celebrities, ranging from WTVT-Ch. 13 morning news anchor Laura Moody to a server at a Clearwater bar whom he looked up 14 times. Investigators found that Crean disproportionately sought information about women between the ages of 24 and 33.

On Friday, the Clearwater Police Department command staff recommended that he be demoted to sergeant and suspended for five days. Chief Tony Holloway agreed with the decision, which must be confirmed by city human resources officials.

"We're sending a message out to the officers that they're not going to use DAVID just because they're bored or curious," Holloway told the Times Friday. "They're going to use this law enforcement tool for law enforcement only."

But Bryan Felts, a Tampa Police Department officer whom Crean looked up twice, said he was stunned that Crean could keep his job, given the revelations in the internal investigation. Felts is the boyfriend of Crean's ex-wife, Christie Crean — who was herself looked up six times in the database by her ex-husband.

"I've never seen anything like it. At my agency, that just would never, never fly," Felts said. "All they did was demote him? That's incredible."

In a statement to internal investigators, Crean said he "never really received any formal training" on the statewide database.

"It was never my intent to invade anyone's privacy with malice or ill will towards any other persons that I queried," he said.

The DAVID system contains information about drivers registered in Florida, including home addresses, photographs, Social Security numbers, birth dates and vehicle descriptions.

Its use has not always been tightly regulated. In December, a Florida Highway Patrol trooper filed a federal lawsuit claiming that law enforcement officials from other agencies wrongfully searched for her information after she pulled over a Miami police officer.

In November, Clearwater police referred a felony computer-crimes charge against Crean to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office after he used DAVID to look up a South Pasadena woman's personal information under questionable circumstances. Prosecutors determined that he had not violated any laws since the woman might have been connected to an investigation.

The names in the latest internal investigation leave little room for a similar explanation.

Among those he looked up were former professional tennis player Anna Kournikova and John Hubbard, a Pinellas County sheriff's deputy who, according to the internal investigation, arrested Kristen Gregg, Crean's current girlfriend.

Investigators found that he performed many of his searches while not on duty. In addition to looking up fellow officers, he ran five searches on police officers' wives and two on their daughters, the investigation found.

Given the preponderance of searches for women, investigators asked Crean "if he was using the DAVID system to target certain females for the purpose of developing a personal relationship," according to the summary. He said he had not. He said the "majority" of his database searches were related to work but acknowledged some were driven by "curiosity."

Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.

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