Cops who listened in on 20-year-old man’s private phone calls, including ones with his family and employer, are suspended
A Florida police force suspended eight officers after admitting to accidentally monitoring the phone calls of a 20-year-old man suspected of stealing.
Orlando police said in a statement on Tuesday that their officers were “accidentally” monitoring calls made by Brian Laundrie and a 31-year-old man from November 2008 until February 2009, including one in which the two were heard asking for help.
The incident, which resulted in Laundrie being detained and charged with burglary and theft, comes at a time when similar cases have sparked public outrage.
Last July, an Ohio police force used cellphone tracking technology to find four suspects after a three-year-old girl was abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered. The police department released GPS data that tracked the suspects’ cellphones in real time, sending images of the suspects’ paths to an emergency alert system to the mass media.
In December 2010, Indianapolis police were criticized after searching the homes of officers suspected of using GPS tracking to find a murder suspect.
Laundrie’s family has spoken out about the incident in a letter that was released by his lawyer before it went public.
Laundrie – a passenger in the car of a woman who fell asleep – told investigators he fell asleep and his phone was unplugged before he was robbed by a man and his accomplice, a woman who are still at large. Laundrie was arrested eight months later, in June 2009, for possession of stolen property.
Investigators said they were able to identify Laundrie’s phone using his prison records.
Laundrie has filed suit against the state for violating his civil rights, claiming that he was subjected to a “deprivation of rights and freedom”, and that he did not have “due process and a fair trial for a crime which ultimately resulted in his incarceration on a felony charge”.
His case comes at a time when discussions about police use of GPS tracking technology have been increasing in the wake of cases such as the Ohio kidnapping and the Indianapolis mass incarceration investigation.
Laundrie’s attorney, Derrick Phelps, said in a letter to Orlando police chief John Mina that the department should apologise to Laundrie and his family.
“It is critical to correct the record and inform the public that Brian never engaged in any criminal activity and that the false allegations against him were maliciously contrived by the Police Department and its investigators, to further the psychological and financial gain of the Central Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA),” he wrote.
Phelps would not comment on whether he plans to seek damages against the Orlando police.
Police in Orlando said in a statement on Tuesday that they were appalled by the incident and “regret this error. A review of the incident, and the actions taken in response, clearly demonstrate that our policies regarding the use of this tracking technology were ineffective and inadequate”.
The police department said it had suspended the eight officers until an internal investigation into the incident was complete.