Sunday, April 14, 2013

People in the Local News

Right off the bat let me say that I'm "iffy" about the practice of publishing mugshots in the newspaper. Am I interested in knowing which members of my community have been arrested? Abso-damn-lutely! But do I think this practice might violate the rights of citizens who are supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty? Yeah, I think it might. The arrest makes the news, but the disposition of the case months later seldom does. Unless the crime is a major one, no picture of the accused is published after charges have been dropped or innocence has been declared.

Nevertheless, I study those mugshots when I see them. Part of the reason is that I'm looking for familiar names and faces, people whom I might have encountered when I worked for criminal attorneys. Once in a while I see one.

Recently I've been noticing a trend. It seems that more and more of the arrestees pictured in the newspaper are smiling. What's up with that? What's happening at the jail that's funny enough to make someone crack a grin while they're being photographed for booking? I'm wondering if there's someone new in charge of mugshots, perhaps a pudgy, jolly deputy with a quick wit that puts them at ease. Or maybe these people are smiling because they're happy to be reunited with former high-school buddies who are now law-enforcement officers. I don't know.

It's obvious from the smiles that there was no police brutality in these arrests, so that's a good thing. On the other hand, I think the old-style, grim-faced mugshots were more useful for identification purposes. I suspect that if an officer shines a flashlight into the face of any of these people in the future, the officer will see the customary deer-in-the-headlights expression rather than a smile.

I've compiled a sample of these smiley-faced mugshots to show you what I'm talking about. I've purposely made the sample a large one--and masked the faces to obscure their identities--because there is one person here whom I recognize.

There's no reason to expect that that person would see this post in a million years, but in that unlikely event, I'd like to say this:

You were young when you first started showing up to see the attorney who was my boss. You aren't so young anymore. You were funny then, and it looks like you're still relying on your charm. As Dr. Phil would ask, "How's that workin' out for ya?" I always hoped you'd stop doing drugs and straighten yourself out. You were bright--you're probably still bright--but you've thrown away your youth and your future.

I remember well that every new arrest brought you back into the office with an embarrassed, apologetic smile on your face, a big baggie of freshly caught fish for the lawyer, and a rose from your grandfather's garden for me. With that in mind, I've done one tiny favor for you today, even though you'll never, ever, know about it: I've photoshopped you a tooth to fill the empty spot in your smile.


  1. You know, I think says something about the narcissistic direction the world seems to be heading in. I heard a few days ago that the "selfie" is the #1 type of photo people shoot these days!

    So these mug shots don't surprise me at all. I've even heard of women (I'm think it was Jody Arias) asking for makeup before the mug shot!

  2. Holly, you make a good point.

  3. Unfortunately, this particular post has become a target for spammers who flood it with comments that include links to products. As a result, I am going to close comments for now.