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Online Posting of Accused Shoplifter Photos Stirs Debate

Posted Apr 8, 2008 11:53 AM CDT
By Molly McDonough

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Civil liberties watchdogs are sounding alarms over a new law enforcement tactic in Arizona in which photographs of shoplifting suspects are posted online -- even before a conviction.

Avondale police are the latest to post, then publicize the mug shots of suspects online, the Arizona Republic reports.

The idea is to help merchants crack down on shoplifting, which is hitting record levels in the community. But according to the Republic, the ACLU and area defense lawyers are raising questions about the tactic.

"This is part of a growing trend" to penalize people who are arrested, no matter if they're cleared later, says Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona.

The Republic notes that Arizona isn't the first state in which municipalities have opted to post photos of suspects online. El Paso, Chicago and St. Paul, Minn., also post mugshots to curb everything from DUI and prostitution to domestic violence or public indecency.

On Avondale's site, there is a disclaimer that all individuals are innocent until proven guilty.

But civil liberties advocates say that may not be enough.

"If they (police) thought the guy was innocent...his picture wouldn't be up there," Phoenix defense attorney Joey Hamby is quoted saying.

Hat tip Criminal Justice Journalists.

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