Monday, November 02, 2009

Cop Watch: Dallas County Constable's Computers Taken Over, What About Our Privacy Rights?

First, there were rumors that employees of a Dallas County Constable were forced to work for free on the job as well as on the constable's re-election campaigns. Then, some of these employees told their stories to FBI agent Danny Defenbaugh and that's when You-Know-What hit the fan.

Right now, Dallas County Constable Jaime Cortes has his lawyers filing arguments with the court that the Dallas County Commissioners don't have the legal right to investigate Cortes or his fellow law enforcer, Constable Derick Evans. (There are rumors that Craig Watkins is behind the scenes with his own investigation, but the District Attorney's Office isn't confirming that they're doing anything here.)

Right before Thanksgiving, a retired district judge is going to have a hearing and sort out this mess -- but there's already a lot of mud that's been slung and probably lots more will get thrown before that November 23rd court date.

Why should we care?

Well, regardless of all this employment hooplah, the bottom line is that the computers used by the constables were taken by the investigators, and presumably they've been through all those stored files. In fact, we've got no idea who all has been combing through those computer files.

Plus, we don't know what all those law enforcement files contained on the Constable's databases, but any Average Joe citizen out there probably had a right to privacy expectation that their personal information wouldn't be tossed around like this.

Today, the Dallas County Constables do lots of police-type work -- long gone are the olden days, where their primary job was serving subpoenas and the like. Now, Cortes and his brethren are involved in things like (1) finding dads who aren't paying their child support and forcing the deadbeat dads to pay up; (2) searching out and closing down crack houses and other drug sales shops in their area; (3) watching schools for dealers trying to sell drugs like heroin to the kids there; (4) impounding cars and other vehicles for various law violations, etc.

There's nothing to shield totally innocent folk from the stigma of being revealed as someone once considered as a druggie, etc. by the free for all use of the Constable's computer files here.

Let's hope the Judge on the November 23rd hearing puts a stop to this -- although, it's probably like shutting the barn door after the horse is gone by now ... right? How many copies of those hard drives have been made? Who got sent what as email attachments?