Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia's office has announced a new policy where they will no longer provide the media -- or you, the public -- with mugshots of arrested people until they have been convicted of a crime.
The sheriff's office says it's too much of a manpower hassle to provide mugshots because staffers have to "check with the arresting agency in each case to make sure the release will not imperil an ongoing criminal investigation," says department spokeswoman Christina Garza.
Well, you'd never want to interfere with an ongoing investigation. Except there's this to the media, from the department:
[P]lease keep in mind you have several ways to obtain photos of newly arrested suspects and other inmates. The arrest of Michael McDougall on Sunday following the shooting death of his pregnant wife provided the latest example of how media are able to photograph or videotape suspects in high profile cases. He was photographed and taped at the scene as well as later in probable cause court at 49 San Jacinto. Please call us if you have questions about access to probable cause court.
So the sheriff doesn't want to imperil ongoing investigations by releasing pictures of arrested suspects, but here's a way to take pictures of arrested suspects anyway.
If you have the newsroom manpower to keep track of probable-cause hearings and get a staffer to them at the right time, that is.
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Other counties around here, like Brazoria and Galveston, don't even require reporters or the public to go through the Public Information Office -- they just post the mugshots online. We guess there are tons of investigations ruined in those counties.
Garcia's office says state Attorney General Greg Abbott has consistently ruled that mugshots do not have to be made public.
We have done our best to treat news media requests fairly and consistently. Our new policy will bring us even closer to those goals. You won't have to worry about which news organization is getting a mug shot first under deadline pressure, for instance. Our new policy will also make us more sensitive to the right of privacy of people who may be cleared of charges after their arrest. It will also fulfill the sheriff's overall goal of bringing transparency to the agency, because openly striving to follow the law is the essence of transparency.
"The essence of transparency." That's one way to put it.