Utica Police deactivates Facebook page after criticism

By ANDREW DONOVAN

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Utica Police Department has officially deactivated their Facebook page following criticism, according to officials.

Utica Police Public Information Officer Steve Hauck cites, "strong criticism by our local and state politicians, who feel that the page shows Utica in a poor light."

The page was launched in 2010 when the department wanted to expand their online presence. At the time, Utica Police Chief Mark Williams attended a social media seminar with other chiefs from around the state and found that Utica was one of the few cities of its size not taking advantage of social media.

On sometimes a daily basis, the page would have mugshots and arrest information from the cases Utica Police officers would deal with, including everything from DWIs to homicides.

On Friday, Hauck said, "Since starting the page, I have tried to be as open and transparent as possible with the media and citizens that we serve. We have accomplished great things with the page, having closed dozens of cases that otherwise would have gone unsolved."

Some of the criticism of the page surrounded comments from other users, which were some described as racist, bigoted and threatening.

In 2012, the New York Civil Liberties Union spoke out against the page. An attorney for the organization, Lisa LaPlace, said those being charged are instead being convicted in the eyes of public opinion.

On Friday, the NYCLU told NEWSChannel 2, " It shouldn’t take the Police Department years to address this issue, but we’re glad they’ve finally stopped undermining the justice system by ending the out-of hand commentary on people who have a presumption of innocence."

Other police agencies have deactivated their Facebook, including in Plainfield, Connecticut. At the same time, other local agencies have joined the social media service, including the Oneida County Sheriff's Department and the New Hartford Police Department.

Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol said the sheriff's office has not had any kind of conversation in regards to deactivating their page. He says there are occasional issues, especially inappropriate comments, but it is always monitored by their personnel.

A search for "City of Utica, NY Police Department" on Facebook yields no returns.

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