The Safe in Police Hands?report, based on freedom of information (FOI) requests, reveals that between June 2011 and December 2015 police officers and staff were responsible for at least 2,315 data breaches.
The greatest number of data breaches were by the West Midlands Police (488), followed by the Surrey Police (202), Humberside Police (168), and Avon and Somerset Police (163).
More than 800 employees accessed personal information for no policing purpose, while data was shared inappropriately or without authorisation almost 900 times, the report claims.
Specific incidents show officers misusing their access to information for financial gain and passing sensitive information to members of organised crime groups, the report said.
In more than half the cases, the report said no formal disciplinary action was taken, while a written or verbal warning was issued in only 11% of cases.
However, 13% of cases resulted in either a resignation or dismissal and 3% resulted in a criminal conviction or a caution.
“Abusing access to private and sensitive information is not acceptable by anyone, but particularly by those charged with keeping us safe and upholding the law,” the group said in a statement.
As a result of the government’s digital by default policy, the report notes that the levels of data the police handle will increase.