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Sonoma County sheriff removes jail mug shots from internet

Six months after making booking photos of inmates at the Sonoma County Jail available online, Sheriff Rob Giordano has reversed course and taken them down.

In a statement Monday, Giordano said the policy change last November resulted in “disproportionately displaying the booking photos of homeless and mentally ill people compared to those members of our society who have the economic means to post bail.”

Sonoma County Public Defender Kathleen Pozzi was against publishing photos of inmates at the county jail and said she met with Giordano earlier this year to voice her concerns.

“He did the right thing after much thought and consultation,” Pozzi said. “He’s taken them down and taken them down for the right reasons.”

Before the November policy change the Sheriff’s Office would only release booking photos of suspects who were deemed a public safety threat. Now, the Sheriff’s Office will release booking photos upon request “when it serves the interest of the public,” Giordano said.

Another reason for removing mug shots was that third-party companies started collecting photos from the sheriff’s inmate database to sell to other websites, Giordano said. In some cases companies have demanded a fee from former inmates to remove their pictures from public view.

“This financial exploitation and the public shaming is contrary to the mission of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office,” he said.

State public records law gives discretion to local law enforcement agencies on whether to release photos of people not yet convicted of a crime.

You can reach Staff Writer Nick Rahaim at 707-521-5203 or nick.rahaim@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nrahaim.

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