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Calif. town considers shaming DUI offenders on Facebook

By Ed Oswald, Betanews

Huntington Beach city council members are considering a unique way to fight back against drunk driving: posting the photos of repeat offenders to the police department’s Facebook page. The idea is actually a scaled-back version of one proposed in November by Councilman Devin Dwyer, who originally wanted the photos of every DUI offender posted.

The problem of drunk driving is a serious one for this resort city a hour south of Los Angeles: according to the Associated Press, some 1,700 DUI arrests were made in 2009, and 195 were either killed or injured as a result of drunk driving. Huntington Beach ranks first among cities of its size for alcohol-related causalities.

No doubt, the idea is sure to rankle some. The police department is leery of backing the proposal as it may breed distrust and resentment among residents. A spokeperson for the deparment said the idea has “no value,” arguing “law enforcement is not about public shaming.”

Privacy advocates also criticize the move for obvious reasons. In the end, it appears to be a question of whether Dwyer’s proposal would serve the greater good.

“My suggestion was motivated by the fact that many residents contacted me after a local newspaper stopped publishing [DUI arrests],” Dwyer said in a memo sent to city officials. “In my view, posting this information is a reasonable step to take to enhance the safety of Huntington Beach residents and visitors.”

Police in the city debuted its official Facebook page late last year, but have since then used it for only promotional purposes. Using it for actual police actions would be something completely new.

Other police departments have similarly used Facebook and other social networking outlets to disseminate information on drunk drivers, however in most cases the efforts have not lasted long. At issue is the presumption of innocence, as well as whether it is legally okay for the police to release such information.

Copyright Betanews, Inc. 2010

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