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Police in the Southern California city ranked top in the state for alcohol-related traffic fatalities decided it won't be using a new tactic to keep drunk drivers off the road. A councilman's idea to post their mugs hots on Facebook has been rejected.
The move raised the hackles of privacy advocates and was met with resistance from a police department fearful of alienating residents. Councilman Devin Dwyer of Huntington Beach proposed that police begin posting the mug shots of everyone who is arrested more than once for driving while under the influence.
The plan was voted down 4-3 at Tuesday's council meeting.
According to the OC Register:
One council member argued Tuesday night that it would harm the city's image, another said the strategy wouldn't be effective, while others contended posting photos of habitual drunken drivers would embarrass families.
According to the L.A. Times, Huntington Beach City Councilwoman Connie Boardman said she appreciated idea's creativity, but that publishing the photos would be tantamount to public shaming.
"Repeat drunk drivers, well they're addicts, they're alcoholics," Boardman said. "And putting their picture on Facebook is not going to stop them from drinking, but what it will do is humiliate their parents and terribly embarrass their children."
Dwyer's plan read:
Direct the Police Department to begin posting their Arrest Log on the Police Department website as soon as practicable, and place an internet accessible computer in the Police Department lobby to allow individuals to access the information if they have no other means to access the website. Also, direct the Police Department to post information regarding the arrest of "Habitual Drunk Drivers" and their photo on the Police Department Facebook page.
He initially wanted the police department to post the mug shots of first offenders, but watered down his proposal to only include repeat offenders. Huntington Beach, a city of about 200,000 famed for its Surf City alias, an off-leash dog beach and a downtown packed with bars, is ranked top out of 56 California cities of similar size for the number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities. In 2009, 195 people were killed or injured.
Drunken driving laws are aggressively enforced, and in 2009, there were 1,687 DUI arrests.
"There is a saying: Come to Huntington Beach on vacation, leave on probation," said attorney Randall Bertz, who specializes in DUI cases.
Bertz, a former police officer who has been defending such cases for 23 years, said uploading DUI suspects' photos onto Facebook would have violated a person's right to privacy and would likely not be a deterrent to habitual drunken drivers.
Dwyer said he has received wide support from residents for his proposal, including from a woman whose husband and three children were killed in an alcohol-related crash. He decided to push his plan forward after the local newspaper had a change in editorial policy and ceased publishing arrest logs.