Lake County Sheriff Frank Rivero this week cut access to his office's central records system, affecting several agencies and personnel in the county, including Lakeport police and the probation department.
Rivero contends he is cleaning up a sloppy system he inherited after years of lax oversight with too many people digging through records.
But the change means police officers can no longer immediately view dispatch records of their own activities, although they still have emergency support provided by dispatchers, police officials said.
Lakeport pays the county to dispatch calls for the city.
“It is key to the everyday operations of this agency,” Lakeport Police Lt. Jason Ferguson said of the sheriff's database. “It is absolutely necessary.”
The sheriff's computer-based records information management system had for years been used among police agencies in the county as well as the probation department and District Attorney's Office.
Chief Probation Officer Rob Howe said the sheriff introduced a cumbersome process involving formal record requests and waiting for faxes in place of the computer system.
“What is the necessity of this? What prompted it? If an employee did something wrong and misused it, I would want to know about it,” Howe said.
Rivero, reached by phone Wednesday, said that too many people outside of the Sheriff's Office have had access to its records, inviting snooping and risking the improper release of victim and investigatory information.
“The system has sensitive information, criminal history, contacts, children. I have to secure it so it can't be inappropriately accessed and abused,” Rivero said.
Rivero's decision to remove access without warning is another example of his in-your-face management style that has stirred angst among county agencies and even within his own department.
In 2011, Rivero cut off the District Attorney's Office from accessing the record system after saying investigators, who were also part-time dispatchers, abused their access.