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Friday, August 14, 2009

O Arizona: Sheriff Joe "Raids" and Commandeers County Computer System

Sheriff's Office explains why it took over county computers
A Maricopa County Sheriff's official said Thursday that his office's takeover of a county computer system
was prompted by repeated requests by the state to protect sensitive criminal-justice data.

Chief Deputy David Hendershott said the state Department of Public Safety was concerned that civilians could have inappropriate access to criminal-history records in the system.

The Sheriff's Office took control of the Integrated Criminal Justice Information System from county employees on Wednesday. The system links the county's criminal-justice agencies to state and national databases that hold criminal records, court dates, probation and personal information, and other records.

"We felt intrusion (into the system) was imminent," Hendershott said.

At a Superior Court hearing Thursday, the Board of Supervisors and county administrators tried to get a temporary restraining order against the Sheriff's Office and get the system back under their control. That hearing continues at 2:15 p.m. today.

The Sheriff's Office and the Board of Supervisors have been debating control of the system for months. In April, the Sheriff's Office filed a lawsuit in Superior Court over the system's management.

On Wednesday morning, 10 deputies and a sheriff's computer expert took control of some county computer equipment and changed a password. County officials characterized the action as a "raid."

But Kerry Martin, an attorney representing the Sheriff's Office, said deputies "did not go in and seize any equipment, no court records and no e-mails." Instead, they changed the password so sensitive criminal-justice information could be accessed only by law-enforcement officers with special clearance.

County officials say the Sheriff's Office overstepped its boundaries, especially given the lawsuit.

"There's just no justification imaginable for the . . . use of force that was put out, or the intimidation," said Wade Swanson, an attorney for the supervisors.
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