Unintended Effect of Privacy Law Brought Police Log Errors

Haverhill Deputy Police Chief Anthony Haugh said a police log was jumbled after being sorted in a computer spreadsheet.

The unintended consequences of a 2014 state law, designed to protect victims of domestic abuse, played a role in the release of an erroneous Haverhill Police log this week.

After an investigation of apparently jumbled entries in a police log, Haverhill Deputy Police Chief Anthony Haugh told WHAV this morning the problem was traced back to an error while sorting an Excel spreadsheet.

One of the log entries, reported by WHAV, seemed to record police had responded to a fire Friday at the same Brickett Avenue home that was all but destroyed early Sunday morning. Haverhill police Chief Alan R. DeNaro said Tuesday afternoon his officers did not respond to a fire at 10 Brickett Ave., Friday, and was later backed by a resident of the home.

Haugh said the 2014 law that requires police to hide certain log entries caused officers to copy entries from the department’s database into a common spreadsheet program to more easily remove records. Unfortunately, he explained, a sorting error resulted in “misalignment of dates and calls.”

“All the calls shifted,” Haugh explained. Until a better solution is found, the deputy said, officers will return to manually blocking out information by hand.

DeNaro was perplexed about the error Tuesday. “There appears to be an anomaly in the system, or the way it was reported (by police dispatchers).” DeNaro said. He assured WHAV answers would be provided this morning and Haugh fulfilled the promise.

In 2014, the legislature passed. and Gov. Deval Patrick signed, laws banning the release of “any information concerning responses to reports of domestic violence, rape or sexual assault or…any entry concerning the arrest of a person for assault, assault and battery or violation of a protective order where the victim is a family or household member.” Further, changes to another law required, “All reports of rape and sexual assault or attempts to commit such offenses, all reports of abuse perpetrated by family or household members…and all communications between police officers and victims of such offenses or abuse shall not be public reports.”

The law has come under fire from lawyers and members of the news media. Attorney Wendy Murphy, a former Middlesex County prosecutor, told the press the law doesn’t protect victims.

“Talk about a slap in the face of women. There’s no surer way to cause an increase in domestic violence than to make the problem a secret,” she told the Enterprise newspaper.

Attorney Jeffrey J. Pyle, a partner at Prince Lobel Tye, said the law misleads the public into thinking their communities are safer than they are.

In “The Unwarranted Secrecy of Criminal Justice Information in Massachusetts” for the Boston Bar Journal, Pyle wrote, “The exclusion also may dampen public awareness about violence in the community…prevent the public from learning about violence perpetuated by public officials or other persons holding positions of trust, and mask other criminal charges that may accompany domestic violence arrests, such as drug and firearms possession.”

4 thoughts on “Unintended Effect of Privacy Law Brought Police Log Errors

  1. Any college sophomore could delete data from an Excel cell and not have it realign itself on autopilot.

    This is the direct result of police officers getting on-line college diplomas so they can grab extra money on the Quinn Bill. If they had a real degree (meaning not a peel-and-stick from a diploma mill in Phoenix or Paxton) they could probably figure this out in about two minutes.

  2. Sounds like they need to start using a good document storage solution like laserfiche so they can redact the names and not have to worry about this and make the process a lot easier

    • Hi Jack,
      If you recall Deval Patrick’s brother in law was a convicted rapist. He was convicting of raping Deval’s sister. Deval was a loyal supporter of the guy, even though it was his own sister that he raped. Deval even fired the chairwoman of the state’s Sex Offender Registry Board and put its executive director on leave because they tried to get the brother in law’s name put on a State sex offender list.
      My guess is he pushed this legislation through so the guy would be able to apply for jobs without it showing up on his record.
      Has there ever been a bigger hack than Deval?