DENVER (KDVR) — Public health departments in Colorado and across the country are sharing COVID-19 positive test result information with law enforcement dispatch centers, according to the Associated Press. Police argue it’s necessary to keep officers safe.
Privacy advocates warn it’s government overreach and violates people’s privacy.
Both Denver and El Paso counties have confirmed to FOX31 that their health departments are actively sharing the medical information with law enforcement.
“It is law enforcement specific information that is only in our computer aided dispatch (CAD system),” said Jacqueline Kirby, spokeswoman for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. Kirby says addresses are flagged identifying the homes of people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
“We get sensitive information all the time,” she said. “We have cautions on addresses for a myriad of reasons, and this is just an additional layer of protection for our deputies.”
Kirby says the sheriff’s office purges the information after 45 days. The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado argues police officers and sheriff’s deputies should not have broad access to this kind of private medical data.
“That is concerning for a number of reasons,” said ACLU Colorado legal director Mark Silverstein.
Silverstein points to the fact that those who test positive for COVID-19 make up a small percentage of the people who are infected. He says law enforcement — just like everyone else— should assume everyone has the virus.
“People are wary of law enforcement and might be wary of giving this kind of personal information to law enforcement,” he said.
The ACLU is also concerned that public health agencies are not telling people their positive test results and addresses will be shared with law enforcement.
The ACLU says it will monitor media reports about this issue — and if the union still has concerns — legal action may follow.
The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office says the local health department originally shared the positive cases with law enforcement. However, with widespread infection, they do not see a reason to continue it. They operate under the assumption everyone is infected and the information is no longer being shared.