Re: Running Plates
To expand on what Free9man said – yes, police officers are free to run a computer records check on any vehicle license plate in public view. When they do so, the address of the registered owner will show on the return. However, they must do this as a legitimate law enforcement inquiry and cannot disseminate the information revealed in the record or use that information for other than legitimate law enforcement activities. Unauthorized dissemination or use of the information would certainly be cause for disciplinary action – including possible revocation of his/her state law enforcement certification – and (at least in some states) could even be criminally prosecuted.
And, yes, this is taken seriously (although it does not happen often). I have worked in law enforcement since 1990. In that time, I have personally known or known of three officers who were fired for such violations. One lost his state certification (meaning he was ineligible to be re-hired as a police officer anywhere in the state). In all three cases, the officer obviously did something really stupid (2 involved a male officer thinking with a lower appendage as Free9man alluded to), but none had committed any particularly heinous offense such as stalking, etc.
Behind the badge is a person. Behind the person is an ego. This is as it should be, person at the center and ego to the back.