- Associated Press - Monday, September 18, 2017

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is refusing to release booking photos of some people accused of child sex crimes, saying they could help identify the victims.

A provision in state law allows authorities to pick and choose which mugshots to publicly release, even though court records show the names of suspects.

The Lawrence Journal-World reports that policy is now being used in two cases, including at least one where the suspect was involved for years in youth sports.

A man who had been a coach with youth league baseball and softball programs was charged last month with multiple counts of rape, sodomy and other offenses against a child. The charges involve a single victim, but the case has left some parents with questions.

The other case involved a man convicted last month on multiple counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. State law eventually will require him to register as a sexual offender on an online registry maintained by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, but the timing of that is unclear.

“Our goal in law enforcement is to effectively prevent and solve crimes and prosecute criminals, but at the same time protect victims and to not re-victimize someone that has been a victim of something as horrible as a sexual assault by identifying them to the public,” Sgt. Kristen Channel said in an email.

But open government advocates argue that while they agree that protecting the identity of sexual assault victims is important, it is difficult to understand how the release of booking photos identify the victim.

“I think that logic is too attenuated to be persuasive,” said Adam Marshall, an attorney for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Not releasing the photo makes it harder for parents to find out whether their children have interacted with the suspect.

“We have a strong history and tradition in the United States of not conducting our criminal justice system in secret,” Marshall said. “We believe very strongly that the criminal justice system should be transparent, and the arrest and the booking photo are part of that process.”


Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, https://www.ljworld.com

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