Ridiculing the Innocent

Sheriff Joe Arpaio has a web site where he encourages the public to poke fun at the ugliest or most odd-looking mug shots taken by his officers.  He has a mug shot of the day contest, where citizens can vote for their favorite.

What do all the people pictured in these photos have in common?  The are all innocent -- by definition, since they have not plead in any court or gone to trial.

Sorry, I know he has added the reminder that these folks are innocent on that page, but this kind of public shaming and ridicule for un-convicted arrestees (part and parcel with other favorites like the perp walk) are absolutely inappropriate for the police to engage in.  It is absurd to see our Sheriff running his only little TMZ.

(Yes, I know there are private sites that engage in this, as the photos are public information.  I have always wondered why arrest records are not confidential, but that is another post.  There is a big difference between a private entity engaging in such a behavior and a law enforcement officer doing so.)



  1. anoNY:

    "I have always wondered why arrest records are not confidential, but that is another post."

    I am interested in seeing that other post. At first glance, keeping arrest records out of the public eye is kind of scary to someone like me who does not trust any of our various levels of government. It seems that this would allow people to be "disappeared," and thus I would prefer to have the government be forced to release some simple information about each person in their custody.

    As to the main point of this post, I completely agree. As custodian for those he arrests, Arpaio should hold himself to a much higher standard than the general public. He really is just belittling himself and his officers by making a game out of the judicial system. This lack of respect is adolescent, and it's effect is to tell the world that he doesn't take his job seriously.

  2. a leap at the wheel:

    I have no problem with arrest records being public. I'd rather live in a world where innocent people are publicly shamed than a world where guilty people are secretly arrested. I've not hear of a solution that fixes both problems.

    That said, I'm much more concerned with dash cam video and other police generated evidence that could be used against the police that's "unavailable" because it's part of an "ongoing investigation." No shit. That's why the police shouldn't be trusted as the sole controller of that type of evidence. That stuff need to go into an escrow.

  3. Dan:

    Whatever one thinks of the idea behind this site, there's no doubt that the photos are fascinating. That first guy, the winner, may indeed be innocent. However, if he's guilty, I'm glad it wasn't my property he was trespassing on! Scary!

  4. greg:

    My mouse must be broken, I can't semm to vote for the guy in the upper left corner of the page.

  5. astonerii:

    The first argument against Joe you have put up that I agree with.

  6. mahtso:

    You find it offensive but yet you advertise and link to it?

  7. Craig:

    After DSK, the IMF head, was arrested in New York, there was a big brouhaha in France about the shocking treatment he got here, and how in France, he wouldn't even be arrested for what he did. Keeping arrest records private would allow domestic DSK's to commit such crimes and then intimidate/buy off the accusers without any of it seeing the light of day. Arrest records should stay public.

  8. Steve Florman:

    This really pissed me off. I wrote the dumb son-of-a-bitch as follows:

    Your "mugshot of the day" leader board web page is a disgrace to law enforcement. Is this the manner in which elected officials in Maricopa County treat those who have not yet been convicted of crimes? Is "public ridicule" part of the sentencing guidelines for those people's offenses even before conviction?

    The power to arrest and detain suspects in crimes is a serious one. For the Sheriff's Office to use that power to taunt and demean people like a bunch of fifth-grade bullies is shameful. I can only hope that you'll reconsider this horrible policy. Arrest, prosecute, and punish when appropriate, but stop this childish and demeaning practice. You shame yourselves and the citizens of Maricopa County.

    Steve Florman
    Andover, MN

  9. Gil:

    Why is it okay for private people to display photos of people who haven't been guilty? I thought Libertarians were about more than simply being anti-government?

  10. anoNY:


    It's not the fact that the photos were displayed, it is that they are used in an intentionally humiliating way by a law enforcement official. Arpaio's job is to catch criminals, not to operate a "Hot or Not" type website.

    I think you also have to admit that you see the difference between government action and private action. Arpaio should be under a higher scrutiny when he acts in an official capacity than an ordinary citizen acting privately. Libertarians can certainly criticize private citizens for using mug shots in a humiliating way, but how do you suggest they be stopped from using the pictures? Should the government make it a crime, with the potential first amendment problems?

  11. Gil:

    Anony: If you think a private fellow is simply exercising his 1st Amendment rights then why can't law enforcers exercise their 1st Amendment rights in kind? Once again it's another "gubmint is wrong, period" moment from Libertarians.

  12. Dave Boz:

    @Gil: No, it's not another 'gubmint is wrong' moment (whatever a 'gubmint' is). It's an 'Arpaio is wrong' moment.

    With Arpaio, it's almost always correct to assume that his actions have little or nothing to do with law enforcement, and everything to do with promoting Joe Arpaio and calling attention to himself. His bizarre stunts don't accomplish anything having to do with the office he occupies.

  13. markm:

    Gil: What are the chances that Arpaio created that website himself, using no public funds or resources?

  14. Frank N.:

    "If you think a private fellow is simply exercising his 1st Amendment rights then why can’t law enforcers exercise their 1st Amendment rights in kind?"

    Because the government rightly is held to a higher standard than ordinary citizens.

    In this whole "still innocent" thing, some seem to forget that private citizens have no duty to deem an arrestee innocent until proven guilty. Only the government must do so. Perhaps you have seen some reporting recently about a woman named Casey Anthony?

    Double standards abound as to what a private citizen may do and what the government may do.

    If I think a black person has heroin or other contraband in possession simply because that person is black, I can hold that person down and search for it. While I certainly would be liable for arrest or suit for assault or more, if I find evidence of a crime, it would be valid, not the fruit of an illegal search and seizure because I am not the government nor acting for the government. A government agent such as a policeman cannot take such action and have the evidence remain usable. Double standard.

    I can stand in my doorway and prohibit entry into my house to any one who will not acknowledge that the Church in Rome represents the one true God. The Sergeant at Arms of the House cannot stand at the door to Congress do the same. Double standard.

    Besides, how juvenile is that - making fun of a stranger because of their appearance?

  15. Dredge Slug:

    I suppose you all believe everything you read/see on the internet, too. Seriously. My bet is that the good sheriff only "posts" the photos of those that are likely to be convicted. And that's ok by me. I don't think the good sheriff got to be where he is today by not having some good judgement. And hey, if it takes the fear of having a photo posted on his web site to deter a crime, then hell yes, I'm all for it!