MNGOPer's bill to restrict access to mugshots criticized as "poor policy" by journalism prof

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A bill set to be introduced this legislative session would make it much more difficult to obtain mugshots.
Rep. Pam Myhra, R-Burnsville, was recently contacted by a constituent who reported their mother's mugshot had appeared on a website that publishes booking photos en masse.

The website offered to scrub the photo from the internet for a $500 fee, Myhra told us. But after her constituent forked over the money, the photo popped up on another site of the same sort.

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As a result of stories like that, Myhra is chief author of a bill that would dramatically restrict access to booking photos in Minnesota.

"It's basically extortion," Myhra said.

"Some people who appear on these sites have been convicted, and some haven't, but they're all being shown as if they were convicted of something," she continued. "That's really unfair and wrong, especially when individuals are trying to get out there and get a job."

Rep. Pam Myhra

Currently, county officials will typically send booking photos via email free of charge. But Myhra's bill would bar officials from providing mugshots "in an electronic format," require those seeking them to pick them up in person, and institute a fee "of no less than $5... to the law enforcement agency for providing the photograph."

"A number of states are trying to deal with situations where bad actors are harvesting the mugshots of people who aren't necessarily convicted and creating websites with these photos," Myhra said.

But Jane Kirtley, the Silha professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota's School of Journalism and Mass Communication, criticized Myhra's bill as "very bad policy."

(Click to page two for more.)

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