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January 25, 2019 - 9:59am

Today's Poll: Do you support Cuomo's proposal to bar the release of arrest reports?

posted by Howard B. Owens in polls.
Howard B. Owens
Howard B. Owens's picture
Last seen: 2 weeks 4 days ago
Joined: Apr 23 2008 - 3:05pm

I'm glad to see the poll running strongly against but I still want to editorialize about the proposal:

Public safety is one of a community's largest tax outlays. News outlets play an important role in the oversight of this public expenditure. Crime reports provide transparency for who is arrested and why and can lead to more information about how.

The release of arrests protects society against secret arrests.

It protects defendants by ensuring the public knows of any potential mishandling of the case by police or prosecutors. We don't know how much we benefit from this transparency, really, because release provides a check against abuse (look at the amount of abuse there is around the country now and imagine how bad it would be without public oversight through news reports).

Release helps inform the public about the nature of crime in their community and see what trends are at play.

There's a public benefit to knowing who the recidivists are and the types of crimes they commit.

If there is a crime wave in a community, the public would be less informed about its resolution without the release of an arrest report, which would lead to the community feeling less secure and more paranoid about crime.

This is just a bad idea all the way around.

Christopher Putnam
Christopher Putnam's picture
Last seen: 1 month 1 week ago
Joined: Oct 11 2012 - 1:05pm

Mugshots and arrest reports should be released upon CONVICTION. Not arrest. To prevent damning the Individuals reputation until its PROVEN they have commit the crimes they are charged with.
How many people that are in the blotter are acquitted? Does this news outlet follow every case and print an acquittal notice for every person they print in the blotter?
No shot.

Howard B. Owens
Howard B. Owens's picture
Last seen: 2 weeks 4 days ago
Joined: Apr 23 2008 - 3:05pm

How many people that are in the blotter are acquitted?

Very few.

It would be nice if our court system made it easier to follow court cases. The DA's office in Wyoming County publishes all of its convictions on its website. All DAs should do that.

With technology being what it is today, it would not be too difficult for courts to produce a daily summary of court proceedings.

But the inability to follow up on all cases is not an argument to withhold public information on arrests. As my momma said, two wrongs don't make a right. The public benefit of transparency on arrests is far more important.

Mugshots are useful in helping to identify the precise individual. They should be public information and news organizations should retain their First Amendment right to decide what to publish and not publish based on their own editorial judgment.

Our mugshot policy is to use them only for serious felonies or significant cases. We also have always had a policy of including the mugshots of those accused of dealing drugs (charged with at least criminal possession of a controlled substance third (there have been a few times when mugshots were not available)).

BPD will occasionally release mugshots with their arrest press releases. Many times these mugshots are for individuals charged with crimes that don't meet our standards for publication so we don't use them. The State Police in this county put out fewer press releases but often with mugshots. Again, we don't use most of these mugshots. We never use mugshots for DWIs (which SP always releases) unless there are additional circumstances that warrant our use.

The Sheriff's Office requires a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for mugshots. I used to chafe at this necessity but have come to appreciate it. I think if all agencies followed this policy it would encourage news organizations to be more selective in what mugshots they use but, more importantly, FOIL gives agencies a mechanism for denying unwarranted requests. Agencies do not have to release public documents if the documents are going to be used for marketing purposes. Mugshot sites are nothing but marketing sites, using mugshots for click-bait and blackmail. They serve no legitimate journalistic purpose.

That's the solution the governor should pursue.

Christopher Putnam
Christopher Putnam's picture
Last seen: 1 month 1 week ago
Joined: Oct 11 2012 - 1:05pm

Its not just the mugshot its their name. I know someone who was charged with a slew of crimes, had their name published here, ended up with a nothing but 2 traffic violations, yet his name still appears on the batavian, as being arrested and charged with a bunch of misdemeanors and felony's. Its been 3 years! Yet you can google and still see the long article.

Daniel Norstrand
Daniel Norstrand's picture
Last seen: 1 year 1 month ago
Joined: Jul 18 2016 - 10:27am

News is news. ANY outlet worth a plug nickel would, at very least give a full accounting of the disposition of any case. ESPECIALLY an aquital, which should be a headline. In the case of Christopher's friend and cases like it, they too should be headlined. This type of attention would make prosecutors scrutinize their cases thoroughly before heaping on charges in hopes of an easy plea deal. Many of the cases I've read about seem like double jeopardy with multiple charges for the same infraction.

Lorna Klotzbach
Lorna Klotzbach's picture
Last seen: 1 year 6 months ago
Joined: Jul 20 2010 - 10:27am

We certainly do not want to become a society in which secret arrests are made, and people spirited away, held without trial, and, maybe, never be heard from again. With that being said, we also should not publish the names/faces of youth who are arrested, until they are convicted. Often, they receive youthful offender status and have their records sealed if they comply with strict terms set by a judge who oversees their case. This careful consideration by a judge who seeks to restore the youth doesn't matter if news outlets have, earlier, published their names/pictures which will pop up again, forever, whenever their names are Googled. People's lives are destroyed by this practice. Also, I am not sure why people accused of DWI should/would get special treatment by not having their names/photos published. Driving while intoxicated is an extremely dangerous and destructive thing to do and should be discouraged. If other offenders' names/photos are published, then publish the DUI/DWI as well, painful though it might be.

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