Friday, June 20, 2014

GoFundMe and Free Jeremy (Meeks) - the end of civilization, or the empowerment of the individual?

(The views in this post are my own, and do not necessarily represent the views of my employer or any forensic organization.)

In case you haven't heard, a particular mugshot has received a lot of attention after its public posting.

Why are mugshots publicly posted? For two reasons. First, the posting of mugshots is intended to be a public shaming that deters crime - if you're going to be a criminal, we're going to let everyone know when you're arrested. (It is appropriate to note, as the sites often do, that arrested persons are considered innocent until proven guilty.) Second, the posting of mugshots is intended to be a warning to the citizens. If person X is arrested for robbery, then perhaps you may want to keep an eye on the person if he or she shows up in your store.

Regardless of the intent of posting of mugshots, the Stockton Police Department received a whole other reaction when they posted a mugshot recently. First, here's the text that accompanied the mugshot:


Due to a recent increase of shootings and robberies in the Weston Ranch area, the Stockton Police Department just completed a multi-agency Operation Ceasefire enforcement mission. Through an Operation Ceasefire analysis of the recent shootings, we identified a new active group in the Weston Ranch Area.

In response during these challenging times, this type of collaborative response through the use of allied resources is an invaluable tool to reducing crime in the City of Stockton. The Stockton Police Department would like to thank the following participating agencies:

Members of the Stockton PD Gang Violence Suppression Unit, Community Response Team, County Wide Gang Task Force, San Joaquin County Sheriff’s SWAT, Lodi Police Department’s SWAT, Manteca Police Department, Lodi Police Department, County Wide METRO Narcotics Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Marshal’s Task Force, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; and the AB109 Task Force.

The enforcement groups served search warrants at the following locations:

1300 block of Kimiyo St.
2400 block of Laguna Ct.
1200 block of Lloyd Thayer Cir.
4100 block of Degas Ct.
1900 block of Flatboat St.
16800 block of Shady Mill Wy, Lathrop
4100 block of Seurat Ct.
4900 block of Tiller Ct.
1700 block Bartlett Ct.
1809 Dominion St.
4100 Kassady Ct.

The enforcement groups served search warrants at the following locations:

Felony Arrest: 4
Firearms Confiscated: 4
Traffic Stops: 1
Ceasefire Custom Notification Admonishments: 5

Arrests from the today’s mission:

• Jeremy Meeks, a 30 year old man, convicted felon, arrested for felony weapon charges.
• Terry Bailey, a 22 year old man, convicted felon, arrested for felony weapon charges.
• Juzri Coleman, an 18 year old man, arrested for felony weapon charges.
• Joelin Coleman, a 44 year old man, arrested for felony weapon charges.

Note the first name on that list of arrested individuals, Jeremy Meeks. It was Meeks' picture that accompanied the Facebook posting...and it was Meeks' picture that received a lot of attention. One sample:

Joyforlife Dawson Tear may mean he killed someone but he killed the camera on that day.

Joyforlife was not alone. This single Facebook post from the Stockton Police Department has been liked over 69,000 times.

But not everyone believes that Meeks is dreamy. In fact, some are offended by the fact that Meeks is receiving tons of attention, while others are not. Loren Feldman's comment:

Welcome to social media.

I disagree with Feldman, to a point. While social media certainly facilitates the ability for lovestruck people to fall in love with felons, there is nothing inherent in social media that causes this. I'm sure that people went gaga over John Wilkes Booth back in the day - he was a celebrity, after all.

But social media doesn't only facilitate love of felons - it also facilitates crowdfunding for felons. See the GoFundMe page for Free Jeremy, which is attempting to raise $25,000 for - well, I'm not sure what for, since his bail is much higher than $25,000. Anyway, the site was started by Meeks' mom, who comments:

He has a job and ... He was on his way to work. With no gang affiliations as per two of the charges. He has old tattoos..which causes him to be sterotyped. He's my son and he is so sweet. Please help him to get a fair trial or else he'll be railroaded.

Now I'll grant that I am not a mother, but if I were, I would think that I would be a little uncomfortable that the people who are donating to your son's cause ($865 last I checked) are writing things like this:

Jaclyn Schneider
59 mins ago
marry me?

Frances White
1 hour ago
Get this behind you. Get an agent and training. I want to see you in the movies.

katja steinhaugen
4 hours ago
I can see in your eyes that you are a warm and loving person. I hope you can hire a good lawer and get a fair trile. I wish you and your family the best! Love from Norway

A Carter
6 hours ago
Hit me up when u get out daddy, I got a list of naughty things I wanna do to you ..

Yet at the same time, it's important to remember that social media is not CAUSING this. Human nature is what it is, whether we're using carrier pigeons or Facebook likes.
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