Kent Police Department posts Halloween mug shot photos

Alyssa DeGeorge

Monday, after Kent’s Halloween celebrations, the Kent Police Department posted Halloween mug shot photos from previous years on the department’s Facebook page. One of those photos unintentionally included the arrestee’s social security number.

When a friend of engineer Nick Alexander, 26, shared the link with him, Alexander said he was shocked. Alexander did not know the person in the photo, but felt that the police department’s post was a violation of rights.

A Kent Police Department comment that served as a caption for the image read “Halloween 2009…ahhh the memories. Chief.” Many of the Facebook comments on the photos suggested that people found the mug shots humorous.

“It seemed unbelievable that the actual police would a) be publicly posting/mocking three year old mug shots and b) actually post someone’s real social security number on the internet,” Alexander said in an email interview.

Mug shots are public record and according to the Federal Trade Commission’s website, Ohio doesn’t have a specific law prohibiting publicly posting or displaying an individual’s social security number.

City safety director Bill Lillich said it is uncommon for social security numbers to appear in a mug shot and that posting the photo with the number was done by accident.

“We are a little concerned about the judgment that demonstrates,” Lillich said. “We’re following up so that we don’t have any repeats of that sort of thing.”

The police department deleted the photo and uploaded a new version of it with the social security number cropped out when they realized the mistake.

Alexander felt that this was not enough to fix the issue. He contacted the mayor, city council members and the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Once the police department silently removed the photo containing the social security number and then reposted the image without, at least publicly, acknowledging any wrong doing or compromise of the individual’s privacy, something seemed really wrong to me,” Alexander said.

He hasn’t received a response from the mayor or city council members, but said all of the photos were deleted from Facebook soon after his complaint.

Lillich said officials use the police department’s Facebook page to help communicate with the public and track down criminals. A tip that resulted from a photo posted on the Facebook page in October helped the police department identify a suspect in a sexual assault crime that happened on campus.

“There is a lot of value in sharing [on Facebook] and the chief uses it quite regularly to share with the community in positive ways,” Lillich said.

But Alexander said he thinks posting the Halloween mug shot photos was unjustifiable.

“The intent of posting these wasn’t to get help identifying the individuals—these photos were from two to three years ago,” he said. “Also, there was no justification made for choosing these photos. Why were some mug shots posted while others weren’t?”

Lillich said he has been in contact with Kent city manger Dave Ruller and police chief Michelle Lee to review the issue and all are taking it seriously.

Contact Alyssa DeGeorge at [email protected].