A police dispatcher couldn't resist perusing the national crime computer for her fiance's name and now both of them are in trouble with the law, police said Saturday.
When Debbie Gallagher decided her relationship with boyfriend, Stephen Pitzel, of Long Island, N.Y., was getting very serious, she ran his name through the crime computer and found he had an outstanding charge in another state for driving under the influence.But unbeknownst to Gallagher, a four-year veteran of the department, a colleague had noticed she was using the computer system for her personal information. That was a violation of federal law and the colleague reported the incident.
An internal investigation was launched in December and a month later, Pitzel was picked up on the DUI charge and now faces 30 days in jail.
Gallagher, 25, was then arrested for allegedly misusing the National Criminal Information Center computer.
She was charged Thursday with a third-degree felony by the Broward County state attorney's office and faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
"This was not one of my favorite arrests," Sunrise Police Lt. John Puleo told The Miami Herald.
Gallagher is not an officer, but as a police aide had been trained as a dispatcher and to handle non-emergency situations. To work as a dispatcher, police aides must know how to access the national crime computer, said Sgt. Terri Spongross, a police spokeswoman.
"There are strict laws governing what can be run through a computer and it must be in connection with an official investigation," she said.
Gallagher, who had also handled some patrol duties and accident investigations in addition to working as a dispatcher, has resigned from the department.
Despite all of the couple's troubles, their love has endured.
"They still plan to get married," Puleo said.