Eight employees of Essex Police, including three police officers, have resigned after allegedly accessing the personal records of citizens contained in the Police National Computer.
One of the officers and a community support officer face criminal charges of gross misconduct for illegally accessing and sharing the data.
Essex Police analysed the data access histories of all 5,500 of its employees after it emerged that confidential data had been shared with the public, the East Anglian Daily Times reported yesterday.
"With [data] access comes a duty and responsibility that any information held is only viewed for policing purposes," the head of Essex Police’s professional standards department chief superintendent Dave Folkard told the paper. "We expect and demand the highest standards of ethical behaviour from all our employees and when they fall below the standards expected, they are dealt with through either internal misconduct proceedings or, if appropriate, through the criminal justice system."
A Freedom of Information Act request to Essex Police in May last year revealed that the force had suffered numerous data breaches over the previous three years. These included an incident in which an employee allegedly accessed his ex-wife’s duty details and passed them on to his solicitors, and one in which two police officers allegedly accessed the custody record of their daughter’s partner.
The Police National Computer is a criminal intelligence system that dates back to 1974. It allows police forces to identify suspects based on physical and personal features, check vehicle records, track stolen property and compare case histories. In 2010, nearly 175 million transactions took place on the system.
The PNC is separate from the Police National Database, an intelligence sharing system that was commissioned following an investigation into the Soham murders in 2002. Police forces began using the PND last year.