By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Sacramento protects criminals once again
Jeff profiles mug.tif
Jeff Benziger

As a newspaper editor, I’m livid.

Your state Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom – no supporters of law enforcement – have just screwed newspapers and their readers.

Thanks to state Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), it will soon be next to impossible to obtain mugshots of suspects arrested for crimes. His bill, AB 1475, will make it illegal for our law enforcement to release mugshot of suspects.

Predictably, Newsom signed the bill. He has built his career on protecting criminals.

The state freely continues to flood felons onto our streets to continue their thieving ways while shielding their pictures from being released so you won’t know what they look like.

Low is one of the most reprehensible lawmakers in Sacramento. His bill will prohibit a police department or sheriff’s office from releasing booking photos of a suspect arrested on suspicion of committing a nonviolent crime unless specified circumstances exist.

The bill would also require a police department or sheriff’s office that shares a booking photo of an individual arrested for the suspected commission of a nonviolent crime to remove the information from its social media page, upon request, unless the same specified circumstances exist.

I became aware of this matter when I spoke to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department public information officer about two thieves who spent the day stealing packages and mail in rural Ceres and Hughson. The two who were arrested – Jeremiah Stephens, 27, and Rachael Fowlkes, 25 – admitted stealing and were found with stolen goods and stolen mail. When I asked for mugshots of the pair the PIO was afraid of being sued and my request was not honored.

It seems that since lawmakers don’t believe in locking up people for too long and to release criminals back onto the streets to victimize us then we should all know what they look like.

Stephens was released from jail on PRCS for a prior conviction of stealing cars. Some people never learn and go right back to their old ways.

Low doesn’t think you have a right to know. He doesn’t believe in the free dissemination of information. He feels when mugshots are released without waiting for a conviction or for charges to be formally filed, “then the Internet mobs rush to judgment.”

Sometimes judgments are a good thing and essential to survival.

Low, who proudly notes on his website that he “was the youngest openly LGBTQ+ mayor in the country at age 26,” is apparently concerned that mugshots are “often unflattering” and “posting these images often is to shame and ridicule suspects.”

Would it help, Assemblyman, if we brought beauticians into jail to do hair and makeup first, maybe give a shave for the first time in months, before snapping the mugshot? Maybe make them a little more flattering and palatable to your taste before sharing mugshots? Maybe, Assemblyman Low, you could explain why you think police routinely go around arresting people without cause.

Another question for Low: Why is it bad to shame a suspect by running his photo on social media or in the papers? If you ask me, a little public shaming is warranted and just might cause some criminals to turn from their shameful ways.

The politically liberal Sacramento Bee announced in July 2020 it was limiting the publication of police booking photos, surveillance photos and videos of alleged crimes, and composite sketches of suspects provided by law enforcement. “Publishing these photographs and videos disproportionately harms people of color and those with mental illness, while also perpetuating stereotypes about who commits crime in our community,” wrote the Bee last year.

But never fear, the Bee assures all they won’t stop publishing video footage of police officer accused of using force. They say that publishing these videos is “one way to hold those in positions of power accountable.” It’s a mystery to me why McClatchy doesn’t also believe that publishing mugshots holds criminals accountable.

But from the Bee’s statement, we know they don’t believe officers deserve due process before such videos are released.