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By Jacqueline Koch
The Chattanooga Times Free Press

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - The Hamilton County Sheriff's Department is investigating whether a deputy looked up information not authorized by the department -- a violation of its policy -- for independent sheriff's candidate Tim Akins, officials said.
Officials familiar with sheriff's department operations said Deputy Ann Dillard, a booking officer at the county jail, was asked by Mr. Akins, a former staff sergeant in the sheriff's department who oversaw booking in the jail, to use a federal database to pull up information not related to departmental work.
The results of the investigation are not expected to be available for a few days and probably not before Thursday's sheriff elections, officials said. But as a result of the investigation, Deputy Dillard has been reassigned from her job as a booking officer to watching inmates on the floor of the Hamilton County Jail, Mr. Akins said.
Sheriff Allen Branum said he could neither confirm nor deny facts about the investigation because it is ongoing. Deputy Dillard did not return messages left for comment.
Mr. Akins said he knew he was linked to the investigation, but that it involves a phone call he made to Deputy Dillard's home, asking her to define a code on a motor vehicle record. He said a man, who had received a traffic citation in another state, asked Mr. Akins what the code meant, knowing that Mr. Akins had worked in the sheriff's department and was familiar with the National Crime Information Center and record codes.
Mr. Akins said he called Deputy Dillard because she worked as the National Crime Information Center operator when he ran the jail's booking department. The code meant the license was expired and needed to be renewed, Mr. Akins said.
"I called and asked for a code on a (motor vehicle record)," he said. "It was not anybody's specific number."
The National Crime Information Center provides information to law enforcement personnel about criminal record history, fugitives, stolen property and missing persons, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The center's records are protected from unauthorized access and use through safeguards, including restricting access to those who need it to perform their official duties and by using locks, alarm devices, passwords and/or encrypting data communications, according to the FBI.
The computer screen needed to access motor vehicle code definitions can be found without the National Crime Information Center, Mr. Akins said.
Mr. Akins said he was contacted by the sheriff's department about the investigation and the phone call, which he made in early July. He said he did not know why the department was investigating the incident when it did not violate policy, especially because he phoned Deputy Dillard at home and because she did not run a search on a computer, he said.
"The only reason I can think is that it's politically connected," Mr. Akins said.

Wire Service
 
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