November 2nd, 2011 | Ruth Brown News | Posted In: Cops and Courts, Activism, Tech

Portland Police Bureau Spreads Occupy Portland Mugshots on Facebook

Outrage goes viral

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The Portland Police Bureau has come under some heat this week after posting mugshots of Occupy Portland protesters arrested at Jamison Square on Sunday morning on its Facebook page.

The Bureau posted its press release about the incident along with the mugshots of seven arrestees, sparking a torrent of criticism on Twitter and 458 comments on the page Facebook page itself.

Portland Police Bureau's public information officer Sgt. Pete Simpson says posting mugshots from "high profile cases of public interest" on its social media sites is routine.

"Its purpose is to give unfiltered information direct to the public," Simpson told WW. "A large amount of people now get their news from social media; we are trying to get direct information to people, instead of it going through the media, where it can be editorialized and changed. I think a lot of people are under a misconception that Occupy were the only ones put up and there was some negative reason why."

Indeed, a search through the PPB's Facebook archives reveal numerous other mugshots: in addition to the mugshots of 15 Occupy Portland-related arrests (including those booked for blocking Main Street to traffic on Oct. 13) over three posts, there are four over drug trafficking, five over weapons, four assault, seven about robberies/burglary, two attempted murder, one trespassing, one gang shooting, one homicide, one murder, one sex crime, one about food stamp fraud and 21 asking for public assistance in locating wanted people.

Simpson says the information is the same as the Bureau's press releases, and the mugshots are available through a search on the Sherriff's website.

But a Facebook post is not a press release. It's something that automatically shows up on people's front page timelines, shows up on their friends' timelines if they comment or "like" it, and, crucially, provides an open forum for people to comment on the mugshots.

Simpson admits the Bureau does not actually have a written policy or strategy for which arrests make its social media sites, but that "no one could argue [Occupy Portland is] not a high profile event." He says the Bureau removes comments that contain profanity, but otherwise does not stop people saying anything they care to about the images.

"We don’t want to be the speech police," he says. "People say awful things about us on there and we don’t delete them.... We’re putting facts out. They’re actual accounts of what happened. It’s info that goes out anyway. We understand there's a lot of emotions involved with Occupy Portland, but if people took the time to look at the news release, I think [the one that accompanied the Jamison Square arrests is] one is the most bland we've ever put out. And remember that these are people that wanted to be arrested."

 
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