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Lawmakers loosen limitations on police mug shots proposal

By: - May 18, 2022 4:46 pm
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A Louisiana Senate committee has loosened proposed restrictions to limit the public release of mug shots of police suspects before they are convicted. Changes made Wednesday would allow photos of violent criminal suspects to be issued to the news media, the chief opponent of the legislation.

The original version of House Bill 729 would have only allowed dissemination of booking photos if the individual in question was a fugitive, an imminent threat to the public and in instances where the photo would assist law enforcement.

Rep. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, authored the bill to remove what he called the “digital scarlet letter” from people who are arrested, adding that many are not eventually charged with a crime.

“If someone’s been arrested, that means the police know who the person is,” Duplessis told the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee. “And if they’re a danger, that means they should be held. Or if they’ve been released, that means a judge has determined they can be released. So then the question becomes: why is a mug shot necessary?”

Committee chair Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, offered an amendment to HB 729 that would allow the release of mug shots for suspects of 55 violent crimes in Louisiana law. Senators suggested that stalking be removed from that list, indicating the deletion would happen once the bill reaches the Senate floor.

Scott Sternberg, attorney for the Louisiana Press Association, said the organization opposes the bill but added that the Hewitt amendment “significantly dampens” that opposition.

After a motion from Sen. Gregory Tarver, D-Shreveport, to defer the bill failed, it was advanced to the full Senate.

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Greg LaRose
Greg LaRose

Greg LaRose has covered news for more than 30 years in Louisiana. Before coming to the Louisiana Illuminator, he was the chief investigative reporter for WDSU-TV in New Orleans. He previously led the government and politics team for The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com, and was editor in chief at New Orleans CityBusiness. Greg's other career stops include Tiger Rag, South Baton Rouge Journal, the Covington News Banner, Louisiana Radio Network and multiple radio stations.

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