National City police to have access to confidential data from employment agency

National City police will have access to personal information collected by the state Employment Development Department to help track down a person during the course of an investigation.

The information — such as a person’s phone number and address — will be made available to the National City Police Department under a three-year contract with the EDD.

State law requires employers to pass along to the EDD the personal information of an employee when he or she is hired.

The information is considered confidential. However, state law allows the EDD to share with a law enforcement agency the address, telephone number, birth date, Social Security number and physical description of a current or former employee who has a felony arrest warrant or is considered by police to be a victim, suspect, missing person or potential witness.

The personal information must be requested as part of an investigation into a missing person’s case or a suspected felony.

The National City Police Department has obtained personal information from the EDD in the past, mostly in missing person’s cases, officials said.

While the practice is not new, the EDD has made it a requirement for law enforcement agencies to agree to a contract. The change came in 2015 after the EDD began to charge reimbursement costs for the sharing of data — a move allowed by law.

Under the contract with the EDD, National City police will pay up to $2,436 for the data-sharing services, including $1,500 in administrative fees. The city will use money from its general fund to pay for the costs, according to a city staff report.

Approved by the City Council last month, the contract began March 1.

Lt. Graham Young, of the National City police investigations unit, said he anticipates the “vast majority of the cases” will involve a missing person.

In many of these types of cases, the missing person doesn’t have a criminal history and, as a result, is not in other databases available to law enforcement, leaving police with minimal information and leads.

Young said the EDD database is yet another investigative tool in the department’s toolbox.

The Police Department, like other agencies, has access to law enforcement databases such as National Crime Information Center records and the California Law Enforcement Telecommunication System.

The NCIC database, which is maintained by the FBI, includes a variety of records, including files on missing or wanted persons and registered sex offenders.

CLETS also comprises a variety of databases. In addition, it allows agencies the ability to send one another messages.

Although the databases exist, Young said the information oftentimes is not complete.

“The system is only as good as the information that's put in, and sometimes the information that is put in isn't complete,” he said.

He added of the EDD contract: “It's widening the net so we can get as much information as we can when we need it.”

To submit a request to the EDD for information, the National City Police Department will use a secure file transfer system, which the EDD then will use to share the data. The information will be automatically deleted from the system 21 days later, according to the contract.

The contract calls for the Police Department to implement safeguards.

Young said the Police Department plans to have one investigators request and handle the information. He said the Police Department will do periodic checks and require that passwords for the secure system be changed periodically.

Under the contract, the EDD has the right to audit the police department’s handling of information and safeguards.

Young noted it is a crime for an officer to misuse confidential information.

Email: david.hernandez@sduniontribune.com

Phone: (619) 293-1876

Twitter: @D4VIDHernandez

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