A former police officer in Bradenton, Fla., spent years abusing his access to sensitive information to target women for dates, according to an investigation by his former department, which interviewed nearly 150 women.
The interviews revealed a pattern of “negative and inappropriate” behavior by the former officer, Leonel Marines, according to Melanie Bevan, chief of the Bradenton Police Department. An audit of Mr. Marines’s use of driver’s license and vehicle records showed a clear focus on searches for women over men.
“He was using it in a variety of ways, via social media, cold telephone calls, visits to their home under the guise of being there for police business, you name it, to try and get dates with these women,” Chief Bevan said at a news conference late last week.
Mr. Marines was “very persistent and successful at times,” she said, adding that his activity may have started as early as 2012.
The investigation, now complete, found that Mr. Marines had committed several violations “involving gross misconduct,” broken department rules on records security and had sex on duty. While the probe is over, an F.B.I. investigation remains “very active and open,” Chief Bevan said.
When the internal investigation began last year, Mr. Marines, a former sergeant who had been with the department for about 12 years, was assigned to desk duty. As it progressed, he was placed on administrative leave without pay and stripped of his badge, gun and uniform.
He resigned in late October, but had he remained, he would have been fired, Chief Bevan said.
Both the F.B.I. and the Bradenton Police Department declined to comment further. Calls to telephone numbers associated with Mr. Marines went unanswered.
The investigation was set in motion by an interaction Mr. Marines had with a woman and her parents in June.
After a brief encounter with Mr. Marines in a parking lot, the woman had grown concerned that he was following her as she drove to her parents’ house, according to Chief Bevan, who did not name the woman. Though he turned away before the woman arrived at the house, Mr. Marines soon showed up at the residence.
There, he explained to the parents that he wanted to speak with their daughter about a domestic matter. Her parents declined, questioned his motives and asked for his name and that of his supervisor. Mr. Marines left without answering, but the parents called the department to report the encounter.
When asked about it, Mr. Marines said that he had followed the woman because one of her headlights was out and he was worried that she was impaired.
Because of the diverging accounts, Chief Bevan ordered the investigation, which, at its height, involved five people working full time, spending thousands of hours mining data and interviewing women.
At the news conference on Thursday, Chief Bevan said that Mr. Marines had “betrayed the trust of this department and the citizens of Bradenton.”
“This is truly a disturbing situation for me as chief,” she later added.
Local news reports in recent years identified Mr. Marines as a detective who served as a public point of contact for serious criminal investigations into fraud, child molestation, sexual assault and shootings.
The findings of the investigation have been shared with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Chief Bevan said, and the Bradenton Police Department has improved its database auditing practices as a result.