In March 2023, Tennessee’s Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office stopped publishing mugshots of everyone arrested in the area online. But there’s some interesting context to this good news.
Was this decision made for Montgomery County or to cover for Sheriff John Fuson’s daughter?
Fuson said he’d considered ending the practice before, but admitted that a child abuse investigation at his daughter’s job influenced his choice. “If your child or your mother or your uncle or aunt was being accused of something and an investigation ensues what would you do to protect that person?” he said.
Though his move to protect his daughter will now protect everyone, that’s part of the overall problem.
When we think about the police system, who gets to be humanized and who doesn’t? For those of us who aren’t in proximity to police power, our chances of being viewed as a criminal are much higher.
And that’s what the mugshot does.
Between social media and AI technology, posting booking photos online permanently humiliates and stigmatizes people - even after police admit mistakes. It isn’t about safety. It’s about surveillance and criminalization.
Ending the practice of posting mugshots for public consumption is a win. But there’s still more to go. Our digital footprints may be forever, but the dangers of the police system don’t have to be.