Within a few days this news site will begin publishing arrest photos and booking data of inmates at the Cochise County jail (Bisbee, AZ).
The jail, operated by the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) and managed by Commander (Detention) Kenny Bradshaw has recently had a daily inmate population of about 270. About 10-15 new inmates are booked daily and a similar number are evidently released or transferred.
In response to our request two weeks ago for public information (booking reports and photos) in a form that would make publishing the information more accurate and efficient, CCSO spokesperson Carol Capas said last week:
“After researching your request, we do not have the capability to provide your information in the format you are requesting”.
It will be more work, and somewhat less complete, but we have figured out how to accomplish the tasks without the active cooperation of the Sheriff’s Office.
The News Herald of Panama City, FL publishes arrest photos, commonly called mugshots, that are provided by the Bay County, FL Sheriff’s Office. CCR will use a similar searchable database display system. See the example here.
Closer to home, the non-news site and service PhoenixMugs.com says they get the photos and data they publish directly from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. (PhoenixMugs evidently makes money by charging people to have mugshots removed from the site.)
Responsible news websites like CochiseCountyRecord.com emphasize that mugshots and arrest record data are not indications of guilt. Some CCSO jail inmates, but not all, have been convicted of a crime. Those charged but not yet afforded a trial have not been convicted of any crime and are presumed innocent.
Many news sites, like CCR, admonish readers as follows: “Do not rely on information provided on this website, or any other, to determine anyone’s actual criminal record.”
Citizens have a variety of reasons for being interested in who has been arrested, who is in jail, and on what charges. Those may include concerns about their community, not the least of which is the quality of the work being done by various local police agencies, the county attorney (prosecutor), judges, the public defenders and private defense attorneys.
In response to our request for clarification about formats in which data could be made available to us, CCSO’s Capas said “The format we have available for booking information is what we post on the Sheriff’s Office website.” Perhaps this is what she meant, I’m not sure.
This news site will find ways to provide CCSO jail inmate data, and other public information, in useful forms and interesting formats. Access via this website to basic public information, as published by the various government agencies, will be free. Access to enhanced data, original news reports related to the basic data, plus analysis and special tools for manipulating and viewing the data, may be available only to subscribers.
I’ve notified the Sheriff’s Office and the County Attorney’s Office that a Special Action in Cochise County Superior Court may be filed in order to assure that the Sheriff’s Office complies with Arizona Public Records laws.
The question of whether or not the Sheriff’s Office is guilty of refusing to make public documents really public may, or may not, be resolved in court. But perhaps the question does not need to be answered in that forum.