RISKY ACCESS: Lawyers, accountants, journalists, politicians, teachers, and even children as young as 12 and disabled, who have done nothing wrong, are having permanent criminal record profiles routinely created for them in what one state MP has called a ‘Tinder’ system for bored police officers.
Victoria Police maintains a Law Enforcement Assistance Program database – called LEAP – which records interactions police officers have with others.
Concerns about the improper use of LEAP have been reinforced by NSC member and Member for Northern Victoria region, Tim Quilty MP, who told parliament last week
“I have heard stories of Victorian police misusing the LEAP database, looking up details for their own purposes” and “one person I spoke to called LEAP the cop version of Tinder.”
In his address, Mr Quilty cited the use of improper use of information by police in Queensland who accessed a file of a former swimwear model over 1,400 times.
Risk to shooters’ licence info
The NSC has learnt that every Victorian who obtains a firearm or security guards licence, including junior firearm licence holders, has a Victoria Police file created by VicPol on its LEAP database which keeps information on driving history, any interactions with police and of course any criminal activities, for no apparent reason and certainly without their knowledge.
This affects 228,000 shooters and nearly 40,000 security licence holders, all of whom have now been added to LEAP without their knowledge and consent.
VicPol’s information privacy statement says it stores information on the database to assist Victoria Police “carry out law … enforcement and community policing responsibilities” and gives access to employees who have a “demonstrable, legitimate business need, which is directly related to the performance of their duties with Victoria Police”.
VicPol’s firearms registry (LRD) uses its own database – the Licensing and Registration System (LARS) to store firearm and security licence holders’ details, as well as all registered firearms.
Victorians who hold firearm or security licences must first demonstrate to Victoria Police that they are ‘fit and proper’ to hold a licence so there is no obvious need for their details to be on LEAP.
During the recent pandemic, over 300 Victorian Shooters and many security guards received COVID 19 fines for alleged breaches of restrictions which resulted in firearm and security licence suspensions, firearm seizures and “disciplinary action” by the registry.
The NSC understands the COVID 19 fines were being recorded on LEAP which, given LEAP and LARS databases “talk to each other”, is how LRD became aware of the fines.
Pollies are not immune
Also affected are politicians. The NSC is aware of a number of State and Federal Victorian politicians who hold firearm licenses. These include Victorian MPs Tim Quilty and Jeff Bourman and Federal Senators Bridget McKenzie and James Paterson.
VicPol’s privacy non-compliance
The NSC is also concerned that Victoria Police may not be complying with its privacy statement. Principle 1 states:
Where Victoria Police collects personal information for reasons other than law enforcement or community policing functions or activities, persons from whom information is collected will be notified how their information will be used and/or disclosed, and how they can gain access to their information. For law enforcement and community policing functions Victoria Police is exempt from this requirement if it believes on reasonable grounds that the non-compliance is necessary.
– and Principle 2 states:
The Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 provides that personal information should only be used or disclosed for the primary purpose for which it was collected.
Victoria Police obviously have a legitimate need to collect information relating to firearms licences.
However the blanket inclusion of that information in LEAP is neither warranted on the basis of ‘law enforcement and community policing functions’, nor would it appear if this is being disclosed to shooters.
This is not the first time we have reported on the misuse of LEAP. About two years ago, we covered a sensational story reported by The Age involving an officer from within the LRD, and the now Vice President of the NSC. Click here to read that story.
How to get a copy of your LEAP record
The NSC is encourages members who are Victorian licence holders to consider submitting a request for a copy of their LEAP record by submitting a ‘Freedom of Information’ request to Victoria Police.
Any member needing help can contact us.
To make the request, simply to go: https://www.police.vic.gov.au/freedom-information and scroll down to “How to make a request”.
Making an application will cost you $29.60 and you may be asked to provide ID, however the Police must then respond to your request within 30 days, and you can appeal any delays or refusals to provide you access within 28 days of being notified.
Making a request is easy. The following is all you need to ask for:
“I request to be provided a full copy of the “person history report”on the Law Enforcement Assistance Program database that relates to me.”
It is possible that you may be later asked for copies of your ID. They may also indicate the possibility of incurring search fees. These aren’t normally charged except where people ask for extensive documents isn’t the case in this instance. However if you do strike a problem with any of this, please let us know at email@example.com and we’ll do what we can to help you.