The San Miguel County Sherriff’s Office raised the ire of the community Friday, when it announced a new policy to start posting the mugshots and charges of everyone who has been arrested within the county. Sheriff Bill Masters explained the decision in a statement posted to the agency’s official Facebook page.
“The Sheriff’s Office is adopting a new policy to post all arrestees and warrants on this platform to help keep the community safe and informed,” according to the initial post announcing the policy. “Sheriff Masters said. ‘We want to let the public know what we’re dealing with and create an opportunity for more tips to come in, especially with arrest warrants.’ We will be posting a document with several hundred names of those with outstanding warrants once the list verified. All persons listed are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”
Ten separate posts featuring mugshots and charges ranging from driving under the influence to out-of-county warrants followed the initial announcement. The posts ended with, “All arrestees are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”
The spate of posts, including the new explanation of the policy, whipped up a social media barrage from concerned community members, particularly those who questioned or rejected the notion of publicly identifying the arrestees. Such information has been and still is available to the public in the form of the Sheriff’s Office online public information log on the county website that includes 911 calls and responses, arrests, and current inmate list. Incidents are also reported in the Daily Planet’s biweekly “Cop shop,” though names and exact locations are redacted.
By Friday afternoon, the Sheriff’s Office shared an update on the 10 people who were previously arrested and featured on Facebook.
“As of 3:50pm Friday all 10 of the Arrestees posted about today have been released from the San Miguel County Jail and are now back in our communities. Three of the arrestees posted cash bonds. The remaining 7 were issued PR bonds from the court,” the post read.
That didn’t stop the comments from coming in. As of press time Tuesday afternoon, the posts had collected dozens of comments, including some from people who supported the new policy, and hundreds of reactions. But the overwhelming sentiment was that of disdain. The Sherriff’s Office took notice and tweaked the policy a day after implementing it. Instead of sharing the mugshot and charges of every arrestee, the agency will only post those with active warrant or felony charges.
“Thank you for expressing your opinions regarding our new policy announced yesterday (Friday) on publishing information about all arrestees and active warrants. Upon reviewing this feedback, the Sheriff’s Office is amending its policy. We will continue to post all people with active warrants but will no longer post every arrest. Instead, we will publish those arrested for ‘FTA’s’ or Felonies which, in most cases, will include photos of these individuals,” according to a Facebook post Saturday. “We believe the members of our community should be provided information about alleged felonious activity in our area, as unpleasant as it may be. Note that Colorado law requires our office to keep and provide a list to the public of all arrests and persons in jail which can be found on our website (sanmiguelsheriff.org), as it has been for years. These amended notifications will be published once weekly, and in one posting. We are currently working to verify our warrant list which includes more than 300 active warrants issued in our county alone — or just under 6 percent of the county’s population. Once verified, this list will be posted on our webpage and our Facebook page. Once again, we thank the constituents of our great county for your input.”