Since about 8 years ago, the Somervell County Sheriff's Department has consistently denied supplying mugshots for jail inmates, unless the person has been through court and been convicted. In the past,before about 2008/2009, the Sheriff's department, under Greg Doyle, supplied mug shots. I had a comprehensive crime section that included mugshots if one was available for a current incident. In fact, in May 2008 there was a criminal mischief report that involved Chance Doyle and the sheriff's department supplied his mugshot. In 2010, the Texas Attorney General issued a ruling regarding mugshots that indicated they were to be released in an opinion regarding Irving, Texas.
However, what Sheriff Doyle cites is Open Records Decision 552.108(a)(1) which states that a record is excepted from disclosure if:
(a) Information held by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that deals with the detection, investigation or prosecution of a crime is excepted if
(1) release of the information would interfere with the detection, investigation or prosecution of crime.
If Sheriff Doyle had been consistent with denying mugshots (and he has consistently denied me mugshots for some years), then I might have been willing to accept this without complaint. However, remember the story recently about Tasha Hatcher who put her child in the oven. Quickly after she had been arrested, Doyle sent out a press release that included a mug shot to news agencies around the world. The reason he denied my recent requests was
The agency has reviewed the records and it has been determined that both cases are still considered an open case and is within the 552.108(a)(1) exception.
Really, doesn't that apply to ANY case that hasn't gone to court? And yet, mugshots are regularly given out through open records all around us AND WERE by Somervell County-seems like a blanket policy designed to prevent ANY mugshots from going out. But, what then about Tasha Hatcher? Why was it suddenly okay for Sheriff Doyle to arbitrarily and unfairly decide it was okay for him to send out mugshots for cases that were open, but not fulfill them for citizens?
Here is the justification
The Somervell County Sheriff's Office has not changed its policy on releasing mugshots on open cases. Recently, our agency made the decision to release the mugshot of Tasha Shontelle Hatcher. Ms Hatcher was arrested on 3-17-2016 for the charge of Injury to a Child causing Serious Bodily Injury. Although the case was open at that time, it received international news attention. We received numerous open records requests from news agencies all across the nation and released a copy of the mug shot to all who requested it. We are not changing that policy, however made this one exception due to the international media attention the case received.
I am contesting this to the Texas Attorney General Open Records division. So, one makes an exception to an open case where, at least when Hatcher was arrested, the facts weren't in about how and why, but because a lot of news agencies asked, that made it okay? Is Sheriff Doyle saying that if I, and 500 of my friends all asked, we would then get an exception? Why is he not treating citizen requestors in Glen Rose consistently and fairly but making arbitrary exceptions, and especially when it comes to serious charges such as Injury to a child? I believe he is wrong.
As a side note, every county that surrounds us supplies mug shots. It is ONLY Somervell County that withholds mug shots.
Cleburne Times Review April 2016
Stephenville Empre Tribune 2016
KWTX about Meridian man