A word about mug shots

A lot of Charley Project MPs have mug shots featured in the casefiles. In fact, some cases have ONLY mug shots featured, simply because there are no other photos available. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone through NamUs or the FDLE database or whatever, looking up photo-less MPs on prison databases and mug shot websites, so I can get just one picture of them and be able to put them on Charley.

Some people have a problem with me putting up mug shots. It goes back to the same reason they don’t want me to put up information about criminal records, mental illness, etc. — they think it’s shaming the MP and their family. As I have explained numerous times, though, that’s definitely not the reason I do it.

All MPs are equal in my eyes. I refuse to judge anyone and have no wish to shame anyone. If a person views any MP casefile on Charley, or reads an article about an MP, and see that they were sex worker or involved in drugs or whatever and think “why should I try to find this person, they deserved whatever happened to them”, than that person is an asshat.

But honestly, if I was limited to posting ONE picture and had a choice between a mug shot or a nice photo where the MP was all dressed up and had their hair styled nicely and was smiling, I’d pick the mug shot.

My reasoning is this: people don’t look their best in mug shots. They’re usually pretty angry or sad about being arrested and don’t smile for the camera. They’re often unkempt, their faces might be puffy and their eyes red from crying, they may have visible injuries and they may be obviously under the influence of something.

It seems to me that if an MP is alive, wherever they are now, they probably don’t look their best. They’re probably not living in a suburban house with a white picket fence, a dog, a spouse, a salaried job and 2.5 children. In other words, if they’re alive, they probably look more “mug shot” than “studio portrait” or “party” or “family gathering.”

They may be living on the streets or in a homeless shelter or the like. They may not remember who they are, they may be suffering from mental illness or addiction or both, they may be being trafficked.

There’s also another issue also: the police procedure involving mug shots is to show the full face and head, without adornment or obstruction. I’m not sure even eyeglasses are allowed — at least, when I did a Google Image Search for “mug shot” and glanced at the results, I didn’t see any glasses wearers.

This can make a difference too. In one case, I had three photos of an MP, two of him wearing a hat and one with no hat. The latter pic was obviously a mug shot; he was wearing one of those bright orange jail things and, although the photo is cropped, you can see the edge of a law enforcement logo at the bottom.

The MP’s grandson contacted me and politely asked me to remove the mug shot. He explained that his grandfather had been arrested just one time, and it was only for driving without a license or something minor like that, and his family didn’t want people to think he was a habitual lawbreaker.

Normally I would have agreed to remove the photo out of respect for the family’s wishes, since there were other pics available. I didn’t want to in this instance, though, because the mug shot showed that he had almost completely bald, with just a bit of hair around the sides. With his hat on, you couldn’t tell that at all; before I’d seen the mug shot I assumed he had a full head of hair.

I could have said “receding hairline” in the physical description, but there are varying degrees of baldness and I think it’s better to show a picture if possible. Once I explained my reasoning, the grandson agreed to let me keep the mug shot. Knowing just how bald he was might make all the difference when it comes to finding him.

So basically, it all goes back to the same reasons I write about other “uncomplimentary” aspects of an MP’s life. The more information that’s available, the better.

3 thoughts on “A word about mug shots

  1. Fiona February 19, 2018 / 2:33 am

    Thank you for explaining this. It’s easy to understand why families get upset, but your rationale for using mugshots rather than more ‘complimentary’ pictures makes perfect sense – and it’s useful to have it all set out like this so that whenever the question is asked again you can refer people to this post.

  2. LB February 19, 2018 / 4:33 pm

    Your reasons are pretty understandable, and I’ve never felt that CP was shaming the missing or their families by using mugshots. As someone who had a (now deceased) relative with untreated ptsd who was arrested for non-violent offenses, I admit to still having ambivalent feelings about it – if there are no recent or accurate photos of the individual other than a mug shot, posting the most accurate image(s) is the best thing to do. I’m also supportive of it if the person has any record of non-defensive homicide, violence or sexual assault, as that person could potentially constitute a threat to safety or if the mugshot/arrest is in direct relation to their disappearance. While I don’t feel that way personally, I do think mugshots, even those for non-violent misdemeanors, unfortunately tend to stigmatize people in the eyes of *some* part of the public, some employers, some police, etc.

  3. 6honestservingmen March 3, 2018 / 7:10 pm

    It knowing the lifestyle of the MP does make a difference, not in how the searchers look at them, but in how the disappearances could have played out, or in the case of an unidentified person without a photo, and only general stats how possible that MP might be the unidentified

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