Editor's note: There is currently a bill before the state Legislature - HB 125 - which would seriously restrict public distribution of law enforcement mugshots. The legislation cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee with a 3-2 ought-to-pass recommendation and was added to the Senate's regular calendar late this week.
I think overall we do a very good job regarding the release of mugshots/booking photos.
When you consider the Rochester Police Department makes over 2,000 arrests per year and compare that to the small amount of booking photos we release, I think that shows we are not out to shame or embarrass anyone, but rather alert the public and other law enforcement agencies to certain arrests.
I can say the release of booking photos we've seen in the media released by other agencies regarding arrests they've made have helped us solve some of our cases and vice versa. I also feel the release of the photo helps witnesses and other victims come forward once they've seen the picture and recognize it when they would not normally recognize just the name.
The photos are used in the interest of public safety, and I feel the public should be aware of what is happening around them. Again, the photos should not be used to shame or embarrass, but deter criminal activity and serve as a way to alert the public, keep the public informed and to alert/assist other law enforcement agencies who may be dealing with a similar crime/suspect.
I don't think every photo from every arrest should be out there, but I don't feel they should be just banned all together.
Todd Pinkham is a Rochester Police Department captain who serves as the department's public information officer.