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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Judge: Sheriff’s secretary invaded citizens’ privacy for entertainment


An Iowa judge has ruled that a Lynn County Sheriff’s Department secretary violated the privacy of “countless” citizens when she sought entertainment for others’ trauma.

The decision comes in the unemployment benefits case of Shelby Burns, who was convicted last fall of using law enforcement databases to satisfy her own complaints about deaths and Dozens of others have been fired from the sheriff’s department for curiosity in police affairs.

State records show Burns worked in the sheriff’s office from January 2008 to October 2022, her most recent position being full-time secretary of the criminal department’s Detective Bureau.

As a secretary for the Detective Bureau, Burns had access to multiple law enforcement databases, including the so-called “ILEADS database,” which was built to share information between the sheriff’s office and the Cedar Rapids Police Department.

Burns had access to the database as part of her job to perform background checks and tasks related to the Iowa Sex Offender Registry, and she was instructed not to use the database for personal reasons.

Burns also has access to a daily “delivery report,” which is sent to her email account each day. This report is sent to alert recipients to the activities of Sheriff’s Department and Police Department patrol officers during their previous shift. The Sheriff’s Department marked the “delivery report” as classified.

According to state records, on August 17, 2022, Burns allegedly used the ILEADS database to access information about an unspecified “tragic death” in the community for purely personal reasons. Her behavior was immediately noticed by the Cedar Rapids Police Department, prompting employees there to contact the Sheriff’s Department.

According to the Sheriff’s Department’s testimony at Burns’ recent unemployment hearing, Burns answered questions about her conduct by making up an apparently fabricated story. That led to a broader internal affairs investigation into Burns’ conduct.

Major Chad Colston, who conducted the investigation, concluded in his written report that Burns had a pattern of obtaining case information from the Cedar Rapids Police Department “to satisfy her curiosity or for her own amusement. happy”.

Colston also accused Burns of repeated dishonesty during the investigation and produced a written report with “little detail and truth”.

In all, Colston found that over a four-month period, Burns improperly used the ILEADS database to access 55 case files that she had no valid reason to view.

The county ultimately chose to fire Burns.

During Burns’ unemployment hearing, Administrative Law Judge Elizabeth Johnson heard testimony and evidence from Burns and personnel from the sheriff’s office. She stood in the county and denied Burns’ request for unemployment benefits.

“The numerous testimonies and documents provided by her employer exemplify (Burns’) breach of confidentiality obligations and the privacy of countless individuals whose information was contained in secure databases for specific public safety purposes to satisfy her own curiosity and Find entertainment in other people’s trauma,” Johnson ruled. “(Burns) now admits that she did it, lied when initially questioned in August 2022, lied during the internal affairs investigation in September 2022, and began to lie when she testified at the hearing.”

Johnson said Burns’ actions “demonstrated callousness to Cedar Rapids Police Department service members” and a disregard for the truth.

When contacted by the Iowa Capital Express, Burns declined to comment on the case.


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