For the last five years, the Gloversville, N.Y., Police Department released a digital mugshot — a photo of the accused — with nearly every arrest the department made. Police Chief Marc Porter said emailing digital mugshots to media outlets had become an almost automatic part of the booking process for arrests, partly because technology upgrades at the department had made it easy to do. “It was convenient to just put that out there and save the step from the media calling us and we wanted to be consistent and not pick and choose which mugshots we were sending out, so we just made it an internal practice that any finger printable offense we would send the mugshot along with the press release,” he said.
That policy ended abruptly on April 11, reports the Schenectady (NY) Daily Gazette. Porter said changes to the New York State Freedom of Information Law and proposed legislation suggested that his department could put its state accreditation at risk if it doesn’t restrict mugshot releases. Gloversville isn’t alone. Under the 2019-20 state budget, which changed the law dealing with the release of photos of those arrested, many law enforcement agencies have changed policies on releasing crime suspects’ photos. Some are still releasing them; some are not. The budget amended the law to make the routine disclosure of booking photographs an “unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” — unless “public release of such photographs will serve a specific law enforcement purpose and disclosure is not precluded by any state or federal laws.” The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in 2016 that public access to mugshots of people arrested on federal crimes should be curtailed because the photos fall “squarely within [the] realm of embarrassing and humiliating information” that can do long lasting damage to the defendant’s reputation.