In Florida, police officers receive more than just a gun and badge. They are also granted the right to avoid paying the same price for legally questionable behavior as those they incarcerate.
Florida Statute 119.071 allows active law enforcement officers the opportunity to avoid having their mug shot made public if they make a request in writing and it is accepted.
Though it is unfair that any innocent person’s mug shot should be made public, including police officers, as long as state law demands the public release of these photographs, there should be no exceptions.
Despite their public status, mug shots of celebrities like Paris Hilton, Michael Jackson, Charlie Sheen and even Willie Nelson – who was arrested Friday for marijuana possession – are regular fodder for TV shows, newspapers and magazines.
One can even visit local gas stations to purchase magazines like The Slammer that publish the mug shots of all recently booked persons in the nearby county jail.
With all these platforms, it’s no surprise that someone would want to avoid having their image thrust into the public eye. Though interpretations of the law vary and not all officers’ requests are approved, some can still get off the hook.
Sworn law enforcement officers already have an advantage in avoiding arrest because they know state and federal laws better than most. They should learn from the example of the individuals they arrest just like everyone else does.
Legislation is needed to change this law.
GOP State Rep. Matt Gaetz is currently promoting potential legislation that could change the law and erase the exemption. In addition, state leaders should consider banning the release of all mug shots to the public until guilt is determined.
The U.S. is built upon the promise of equality, despite the fact that fulfilling this promise has been and always will be a continual effort.
The hypocrisy of allowing a sworn law enforcement officer to be exempt from the very same punishments they bring upon others signifies a serious difference in treatment under law for one particular group and is a major detraction from principles of equality.
Of all the issues that may affect American inequality, this is by far one of the most obvious and easiest to fix.