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Protester petitions Denton PD
Ben Peyton / Senior Staff Writer
A UNT student who runs a Twitter page intended to draw attention to how much public information, particularly mug shots, are put online is now starting a petition that is aimed at the Denton Police Department.
Computer science graduate student Brian Baugh started the petition through Change.org to Officer Ryan Grelle of the Denton Police Department to “make mug shots available on request instead of putting all of them online.”
Baugh first got the attention of the media and city of Denton attorneys in 2009 when he began using an unofficial twitter account (@DentonPolice) to re-tweet mug shot information posted by the official Denton Police department’s Twitter page (@DENTONPD).
“I started the petition for the same reason I continue with the Denton arrests Twitter project,” said Baugh through an email after he declined an interview. “I believe that regardless of motive, if you examine the consequences of governmental entities posting mug shots online then you will find that ethically there is something wrong here.”
Baugh’s Twitter account could be a perpetuator of the same problem he is now fighting through the petition because almost all of the content, more than 13,000 tweets, are actually re-tweets of mug shots posted first by the Denton PD.
His Twitter handle has accumulated more than 7,000 followers and the Denton PD does not intend to interfere with Baugh after they made sure the account was labeled unofficial and the Denton PD patch was removed from the page logo, Grelle said.
However, Grelle, who was unaware of the petition, said that he would have to examine the document to avoid speculating on the effect a petition could even have.
Grelle said that by saying that he did not understand the motive behind Baugh’s petition and Twitter page because he aggressively re-tweets Denton PD mug shots, but is less ambitious when it comes to taking them down.
“This person has captured our mug shots so once you are arrested it goes over to his Twitter page and once you are released it’s still on his Twitter page,” Grelle said. “So I don’t understand why he’s making such a big speech about us having a mug shot. Once they’re released from our custody we take them off the page but he has their mug shots staying on the Internet forever.”
Cpl. John Delong of the UNT police department said that they do not post mug shots of people since they do not have a jail.
He said that UNT abides by Texas Public information laws and that the UNT PD arrestees are booked and jailed by the Denton PD.
The Supreme Court, in a number of high-profile cases, has handled the legality behind mug shots being posted as public information and the affects they have in the age of the Internet.
Baugh’s petition has 37 supporters out of a needed 63 as of press time.