Berkeley Police’s bizzare and highly controversial practice of publishing the names of protesters on social media is once again in the news after Lucy Parsons Labs obtained internal emails that shine light into their decision making. The documents reveal the City’s Public Information Officer working alongside the Chief of Police to create a propaganda campaign favorable to the police. The City also kept track of the number of retweets, likes and other forms of “engagement”.
The emails were obtained by Lucy Parsons Labs in a public records request to the City. One email, titled “info flow from Jail to Twitter”, described the protocol for posting mugshots on social media. In the same thread, the Public Information Officer states there may be “legal concerns about the mugshot posting” [emphasis added] before describing how they intend to publish them. The documents further describe Berkeley Police’s policy to only post mugshots of people arrested at protests. Working alongside the City Attorney, they crafted the specific language to post on social media.
It is not clear if City Hall was aware of this policy. Last year, the City of Berkeley also published mugshots on Twitter. Ultimately all protesters from last year had their charges dropped but their photos still remain on Berkeley Police’s social media sites. This year, BPD deleted the photos after a few days but has yet to release records on how that decision was made.
Various community groups are now organizing in Berkeley to prevent this from happening in the future. The City of Berkeley has a motion in front of the City Council that would ban this tactic and it appears to be a popular opinion.
Earlier this morning, none of the protesters arrested on August 5th were formally charged. Although Alameda County District Attorney has up to a year to file charges it is unlikely that they will.