Facebook: it is so many things to so many people. A source of friendship, an alibi for a crime, a way to torture your own flesh and blood. For Evesham, New Jersey police it recently also has been a way to find and maybe even punish those suspected of drunk driving. Talk about social media innovation.
According to the Courier-Post, the police department's Facebook page has included helpful items such as video surveillance clips, mug shots, police reports, photos of missing persons and announcements of policing initiatives. Just weeks ago, the department added names and photos of suspects arrested for drunken driving. "This arms the public with information and puts a face with a name," said Evesham NJ police Lt. Walt Miller. "We've got a lot of information on our (Facebook) wall. We're only as good as the information the public gives us."
As an example of the efficiency of the networking abilities of the page, Lt. Miller went on to tell the Courier-Post that thanks to the "exchange of information," last month police arrested 20 year-old James Dahl for allegedly setting 13 fires in a housing development.
But now the backlash has begun.
With nearly 4,400 followers, some are not pleased to find their picture on the page. Bernard Bell, a Rutgers University law professor tells the Courier-Post there might just be a small problem with posting personal information about individuals and a crime they have yet to be convicted of. "I suppose there might be a potential defamation claim where posting a picture and information was negligent and the suspect isn't a public figure," Bell explained. "It seems at the very least to be bad policy and inappropriate for a police department to do." That pesky Constitution does so often get in the way.
And on August 18, the news came that not only are the Evesham NJ police reconsidering the mug shots friends project on Facebook, but they have decided not to allow people to leave comments there either, according to the Courier-Post. It seems that the comments people were leaving were becoming too "'intensive' to manage."
Drive friendly, Evesham, even if your mug won't go up on Facebook.
- Evesham police are not allowing visitors of Facebook page to comment (New Jersey Star-Ledger)
- Can I Say That? Defamation Law Made Simple (FindLaw)
- Digital Defamation: The Hot New Tort? (FindLaw's Injured)
- DWI Information / Overview (provided by Vergilis, Stenger, Roberts, Davis & Diamond, LLP)
- DUI FAQ (provided by DiFruscia Law Office)