LAFAYETTE — A longtime Acadiana law enforcement officer was sentenced Tuesday to one year of probation and fined $10,000 on federal charges of using an FBI database to do unauthorized criminal background checks on two people.
Federal authorities have not elaborated on why Chad Hazelwood did the background checks, other than to state the checks were not related to law enforcement work, and court documents offer no details.
Hazelwood worked in local law enforcement for some two decades, serving with the New Iberia Police Department, Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office and, most recently, the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office, which he left in July 2012.
Hazelwood had access to the FBI database in 2011 through his work as a member of the Lafayette area’s U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force, according to information from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
U.S. Magistrate Judge C. Michael Hill, who once worked in law enforcement, scolded Hazelwood on Tuesday, telling the former officer that he has “tarnished the badge” and brought “ridicule and embarrassment” to others in law enforcement.
“It is a fact of life that police officers are judged at a higher standard. My own opinion is that they ought to be,” Hill said.
Hill did not discuss the details of the charges during the sentencing hearing but did comment that Hazelwood used the FBI database for “pecuniary gain.”
Hazelwood faced up to six months in prison under the guidelines used in federal sentencing.
Hill told Hazelwood that he had strongly considered incarcerating him but ultimately decided on a sentence of one year’s probation, a $10,000 fine and 80 hours of community service.
Hazelwood asked for leniency.
“I would just like to stand here with my hat in my hand and apologize to you and this court,” he said.
Hazelwood pleaded guilty in December to two misdemeanor counts of exceeding authorized computer access.