There are so many reasons not to drink and drive, but if residents of Evsham Township needed one more, their police department has given it to them: now, drunk drivers get featured on the Evsham Township Police Facebook page, complete with name, listed offence, and mug shot. While this might be an effective way to deter criminals, there are some that question whether it is ethical to post these details on a Facebook page that can be viewed by millions of users.
Drunk drivers are not the only criminals to find themselves in the red hot spotlight of the Evsham Township Police Facebook page: a car thief, a store robber, a gang found fighting in the street and a movie theater burglar are among those with their mug shots splashed across the page. But the drunk drivers are the sticking point for a lot of legal and ethical debates. Is it right to post pictures of people who have been charged but not yet convicted?
According to the Courier Post Online, Bernard Bell, a Rutgers University law professor, believes that posting photos of suspects that are not yet convicted could be a violation of privacy. And at the very least, he notes that there is little law enforcement benefits in posting photos of these drivers so that the general public can view and comment on them.
On the other hand, all of the information – including mug shots – is available in the public record. The Evsham Police Department defends its actions on its Facebook page by stating that:
“In a continued effort to keep the residents of Evesham Township informed of the activities of the police department, we will begin posting the names of those arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. The posting of these names is also one counter-measure step that has the potential to deter drunk driving in Evesham Township and possibly aid in the prevention of alcohol related traffic injuries and fatalities.”
From a strictly legal perspective, the Police Department is not posting any information that concerned citizens could not find themselves. But the question of whether this measure will a) truly act as a deterrence and b) is ethical remains. One woman cited in the Courier Post Online article claims that her reputation is now damaged because the Police Department posted her details on their Facebook page after she was arrested for an alleged misdemeanor.
With over 4,600 fans and growing in its short 6-month existence, this Facebook page is shaping up to be a successful use of social media by a government entity. However, it’s not the first: as we reported earlier this month, the Delhi, India Police Department is using Facebook to catch bad drivers, too.
Comments on the Evsham Police Department Facebook page are split down the middle, with some citizens applauding and some decrying this avant garde use of social media by their local law enforcement. Time will tell whether the Evsham citizens will begin to fully embrace this idea and whether it will catch on with other police departments around the country and even around the world.