A former Denver police officer who resigned from the department while being investigated for abusing a police database will complete community service after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor.
Derek Solano pleaded guilty Wednesday to a single count of a cybercrime for using the department’s access to the National Crime Information Center to look up information on people in his personal life.
Denver County Court Judge Olympia Fay sentenced Solano to probation and 100 hours of community service, overriding lower sentences requested by the defense and prosecution. The maximum penalty was a year in jail.
“Mr. Solano was a police officer and he was given the opportunity to protect the community,” Fay said. “He had access to information he was not supposed to abuse and use for any purpose outside of his job duties.”
Illegal use of police databases has been an ongoing problem for the Denver Police Department. The databases include peoples’ addresses, criminal histories, immigration status, protection orders and other sensitive information.
In 2016, Denver’s Office of the Independent Monitor chastised the department for giving too-lenient discipline to officers who accessed the databases illegally.
Between 2006 and 2015, 25 Denver officers were found to have used the databases for personal reasons, including looking up the phone number of a potential romantic interest and information about a friend’s soon-to-be ex-wife. Several more have been reported since then, including an officer who looked up the information of a dancer who was later found dead.
“The misuse of NCIC/CCIC involves the misuse of a power granted for official purposes, it may damage community trust in the DPD and in some cases, it risks actual harm to community members,” the report by the independent monitor states.
Solano joined the Denver Police Department in 2014 and resigned on Sept. 18 while an internal affairs investigation into his use of the database was ongoing. A complaint to internal affairs filed by a Denver police sergeant on July 13 states Solano looked up information on one woman in his personal life at least 10 times between June 2019 and April 2020. The woman told police that Solano told her he looked her up on the database to find out where she lives, according to the complaint.
Prosecutors originally filed 10 misdemeanor charges of cybercrime against Solano in October, though nine of those were dismissed in a plea agreement. Solano spoke briefly in court before the judge decided her sentence.
“I’m sorry, and I’ve paid extremely for this,” he said.
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