Saturday, January 5, 2013

Former Minnesota Policewoman Awarded More Than $1 Million in Breach of Privacy Lawsuit

Officer Anne Marie Rasmusson of the St Paul, MN Police department seen very much out of uniform.
A former Twin Cities policewoman has been awarded more that $1 Million in damages after learning that more than 100 of her former colleagues illegally accessed her personal information, looking up her driver's license in a state database. The case marks the largest data breach by law enforcement in the state's history.

Anne Marie Rasmusson, 37, was forced into early retirement from the St Paul, MN police department due to an injury in 2003 but continued working out and entered bodybuilding competitions as her husband continued working as a policeman in Minneapolis, MN.

Officer Anne Marie Rasmusson, this time in uniform
Rasmusson became suspicious after she was contacted out of the blue by former colleagues asking for dates or complimenting her on her driver's license photo.
When she was 24 and new to the St Paul police force, one of her co-workers suggested a bet – who could lose the most body fat in three months.

The once overweight officer dropped 15 pounds in three months, and continued her regimen of exercise and healthy eating until she dropped an additional 70lbs.

Rasmusson, who was known by colleagues as Bubbles because of her cheerful personality, first became aware that other officers were looking up her photo when a former police academy colleague mentioned to her in 2009 that she looked great and that he and his partner had used their squad car computer to view her driver’s license image.

In August 2011, she contacted the state’s Department of Public Safety asking if it was possible to restrict access to her driver’s license file. Following an investigation, a DPS worker revealed that her record had been accessed by officers numerous times as far back as 2007.

[Independent tabloid] City Pages found that 104 officers in 18 different state agencies accessed her driver’s licence record 425 times.
At least 104 officers, including police chiefs, stand accused of illegally accessing Rasmusson's personal data and could face disciplinary action.

The city of Minneapolis agreed to pay Rasmusson a $392,000 settlement in addition to a separate $280,000 settlement with other cities whose officers illegally accessed her personal data. Rasmusson will also be awarded a $385,000 suit from her former employer, the city of St Paul. That figure could increase depending on the outcome of a pending suit against the state of Minnesota.

Keep in mind this sort of conduct isn't necessarily limited to the Twin Cities. In Philadelphia, Deputy Commissioner William Blackburn is accused of flipping through the department's personnel files looking for attractive female officers to try and pick up. According to a lawsuit filed by Philadelphia P.D. officer Debra Frazier, Blackburn would then have his subordinated arrange for a meeting with officers he picked from the files.

A separate lawsuit accuses Philadelphia P.D. Staff Inspector Jarrod Bates of coercing a female subordinate into having sex with him in order to keep her job. Bates was a former supervisor of Internal Affairs and was the Equal Employment Opportunity officer in charge of investigating abuse and harassment complaints.

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