UTICA, N.Y.-- The Utica Police Department and State Police will no longer release mugshots to the public or news media outlets, after state lawmakers voted to ban the photos during the executive budget.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo told WAMC in January that the goal of the ban is to prevent companies from publishing the photos online and charging a fee to have the photo removed. The Utica Police Department has been releasing mugshots through Facebook for years, but will not continue to do so.
"We had an internal discussions about it" said Mark Williams, police chief of the Utica Police Department. "The reason why we're going to start to practice now is that based on the intent of the law and the fact that there's going to be signed into law very shortly it's good that we started out and get ready for it rather than enact later on."
But Williams said the department will still release mugshots for specific cases.
"It will be done on a case-by-case basis as long as it's investigative in nature," he said. "I think will be all right releasing that booking photograph in those instances."
Leland McCormac, Oneida County public defender, said everyone has their right to privacy.
"A person's privacy needs to be protected and especially when there's not been a conviction," he said. "Remember there is a presumption of innocence that attaches to every single defendant, that's accused of a crime. We want to make sure that our clients rights are protected at all stages in proceeding, not only at the beginning, during the preceding itself, but also and how that might affect the individual after the proceedings concluded."
But the New York State Broadcasters Association released a statement concerning transparency.
"We are concerned the proposal will have a chilling effect on the release of information that is essential to the public interest. This information involves police activity and is a matter of public record. Communities have a right to know about those who have been accused of criminal activity. To avoid "secret arrests," families and friends of those arrested should have access to this information."
The association said that other states, such as California, have addressed the the issue of companies exploitating people by enacting laws that make it a crime to demand money in exchange for removing a mugshot.
The bill must still be signed by Cuomo before it can go into effect.