A state trooper in Maine has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the state police, alleging that the law enforcement entity illegally collected and maintained data on a number of residents, including those who had submitted background checks to purchase firearms.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court, claims that allegations a state agency was routinely collecting and keeping information longer than allowed by law, and in some cases collecting information it was never entitled to in the first place.
George Loder, 50, of Scarborough is suing the Maine Intelligence Analysis Center, and its supervisors, claiming he was demoted after he told his bosses that the center was collecting and maintaining data illegally, including information about people who had applied to buy guns from firearms dealers, those who legally protested and those who worked at a Maine international camp for Israeli and Arab teens. The center is responsible for sharing information with other law enforcement agencies.
Loder alleges that staff at the center illegally gathered and kept information gleaned from social media about people who legally protested in September 2018 against Central Maine Power Co.’s proposed transmission corridor stretching from the Quebec border to Lewiston.
State police maintain a database that can be searched to determine if a person is prohibited from purchasing a gun. Applications to purchase firearms are supposed to be destroyed after the sale is approved but the center stored that information in the database, the suit claims.
Loder originally went to the Maine Human Rights Commission with his complaint. While that agency is still investigating Loder’s claims, once he received a right-to-sue letter, Loder proceeded with his whistleblower suit.
The attorney general’s office, in answer to Loder’s complaint to the Maine Human Rights Commission, said that Loder did not report suspected illegal activity at the center until after he was removed from a task force based in Portland and told he had to work at the center in Augusta. The office concluded that Loder had not presented evidence that the center had violated the Whistleblowers’ Protection Act.
While Loder’s lawsuit doesn’t specify how the illegally obtained or maintained data was used, the state chapter of the ACLU says it’s time for an official investigation. Zachary Heiden, legal director for the ACLU of Maine, called Loder’s allegations “extremely serious.”
“The Department of Public Safety should conduct an internal investigation and should publish the results; the governor should appoint an independent body to investigate the allegations; and the Maine Legislature should exercise its oversight responsibility,” he said. “These are incredibly serious allegations, with implications for the fundamental rights of all Mainers, and they demand a serious response.”
I’m guessing that Second Amendment supporters in particular will want to know if there is any truth to the allegations about keeping background check records for gun buyers. That sounds like a backdoor gun registry, and if Mainers wanted gun registration laws, they would have voted for them. Instead, if Loder’s allegations are correct, the state police secretly maintained these records at the expense of the civil rights of the state’s gun owners. Loder may have blown the whistle to a federal judge, but lawmakers in the state also have a duty to let some sunshine fall on the shadows of the Maine Intelligence Analysis Center and the state police with a full investigation into the allegations.