CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A Cleveland police officer is facing a felony charge after being accused of misusing a national crime database.
Police Chief Michael McGrath announced Friday that Patrolman Alex Parente, a 20-year veteran of the department, was arrested Thursday by Internal Affairs investigators.
Parente, 48, is charged with unauthorized use of property.
A statement released by McGrath and his spokesman, Sgt. Sammy Morris, said Parente obtained information from the Law Enforcement Automated Data System, known as LEADS, in March and used the information for personal gain. The 1st District officer has been suspended without pay and could face administrative discipline once his criminal case is completed.
A man who answered to "Alex" at a telephone listing for Parente responded with "wrong number" and hung up after learning that the caller was a Plain Dealer reporter. Steve Loomis, president of the patrol officers union, stressed that Parente is innocent until proven guilty.
"We have every confidence in the criminal justice system," Loomis said.
Parente is at least the fourth city employee recently accused of misusing police databases. The department also has been scrutinized this year for its accountability involving officers who use force to control suspects.
Asked if the database violations indicate a larger institutional problem, Maureen Harper, Mayor Frank Jackson's communications chief, noted that the charges stemmed from police investigations, "which I think speaks volumes to police holding themselves accountable."
Previously, 1st District Patrolman Gene Zoladz was convicted of attempted unauthorized use of LEADS. He pleaded guilty in February to the lesser misdemeanor after being charged initially with the same felony Parente is facing. He remains assigned to the 1st District, Morris said.
In April, police similarly accused Morris Vowell, a detective in the domestic violence unit, of using the database as a personal resource. The felony case was terminated a month later at the request of Cuyahoga County prosecutors. He remains assigned to the domestic violence unit.
Also in April, Jewell Walker, a senior data conversion operator in the police records section, was charged with tampering with records and evidence. She is accused of using her position to enter information in the Record Management System database without permission. The database includes police incident reports and many of the follow-up reports submitted by officers.
Walker was placed on unpaid suspension, pending the outcome of her case.
She pleaded not guilty to the felonies.