8.845 Like The Utica PD's Facebook Page
On Sunday morning, July 31, 2011, at around 5:12 p.m., Utica police responded to 310 Columbia Street, in regards to suspicious activity. When police arrived they met with the handy man for the apartment building, who told them that he heard banging on the front door, and went down stairs to see what it was. The hand...y man said he saw a black male, who had cracked the top glass portion of the door and removed the bottom paneling portion of the door saw well.
The handy man pointed out to police, the person who damaged the door and was now walking in the middle of the roadway on Columbia Street.
After a brief foot chase Officer Eric Weir would arrest Quandell O'Neal (age 21, of Summit Place, Utica) and he would be charged with:
*Criminal mischief in the fourth degree,
*Having a controlled substance not inits original container, and
*Pedestrian walking in the roadway, not using sidewalk.
Note: All crimes described in this press release are allegations, and suspects named are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Not exactly the crime of the century, criminal mischief in the fourth degree, but enough to put 21-year-old Quandell O'Neal on the Utica Police Department's wall of shame. It's provides some details of his wrong together with his photograph. At the bottom is the obligatory note that there are merely "allegations, and suspects named are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law," but that doesn't give the Utica cops pause to make sure everybody knows about it.
Social media is the one where we make friends. Is O'Neill feeling loved by having his picture on the wall? Not likely. Anti-social media is the one where we use it to gain advantage by smearing someone with unproven, untested allegations and making sure everybody knows who the bad guys are.
The Facebook page doesn't limit itself to the trivial, but the serious as well. No need to persuade some local reporter to write the story that makes the bad guy bad and the good guy good when you can broadcast it on your own. Since we're all self-publishers these days, why not the cops? Why not use the means available to take every arrest, from the most serious to the most trivial, and lay out your view on the internet before anyone else can contradict it.
The Utica Police Department may see its wall as a way to let the public know that it's doing its job, protecting them from criminals. But these are people merely arrested, as noted, innocent people. By jumping ahead, the cops get to characterize every person they nab as the bad guy, without the bad guy having his say. They get to frame public perception that every person arrested committed the crime, despite the caveat done to appease the lawyers. They put the face of a person on the internet and explain why he's a criminal, without proof or challenge.
Will jurors at trial wonder what evidence the nasty defense lawyers are forcing the court to conceal from them? No need to wonder any longer, as the information is readily available on the wall. What about the statements, maybe even a sweet confession? There it is, spelled out word for word. You can suppress all you want, judge, but you can't keep the jurors in the dark from the truth anymore. The internet will give up all the secrets.
And what of young Quandell, who might someday give up his life of criminal mischief and seek gainful employment as a United States Senator. Google his name and the first thing that pops up is the Utica PD Facebook page about his arrest. He may be acquitted later, or perhaps have the charges dismissed, but that page will haunt him forever. His rap sheet can be cleansed and his prints destroyed, but the law doesn't make the cops take his mug shot off the wall.
Did you suspect social media would be limited to teenagers and desperate lawyers flawging their wares? Not only has it proven to be a rich source of information for all sides in litigation, but it's affirmative by the Utica police, much like Nassau County created its Wall of Shame for unconvicted drunk drivers, to let the public know of all the bad guys in its midst, is a testament to its power and ability to circumvent all the ordinary means of the legal system.
Sure, television and newspapers report on crimes, putting the picture of the suspects on the air and telling the story as related by the cops. Usually, it's limited to more serious offenses, and subject to a certain degree of scrutiny. Often, it provides an opportunity for the other side to add in its two cents, though not always. Whether people alleged to be criminals ought to be held out to the public as bad guys while presumed innocent is an issue, but it's an American tradition to report first and prove later.
When even the most trivial arrest becomes part of the perpetual public record, however, it's time to question whether the potential for harm, the ability to undermine the legal system by unfiltered police claims and pre-empting public smearing, has taken the authority of the cops and the public's desire to know too far.
But then, it's social media, the newest, coolest, shiniest thing around, and it was bound to be used by the cops just as it's used by teenyboppers and the slackoisie. Just pray you don't get nailed for criminal mischief in Utica, or the first thing on Google about you, even if you're innocent, might nail you to the wall. Forever.
H/T Oneida County PD Cory A. Zennamo