NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (FOX 13) - Drug possession, fleeing from deputies, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and crying. Those are among the details the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office shared on their Facebook page about an arrest last Thursday in a post titled “SAD CRIMINAL OF THE DAY."
PCSO says it regularly posts photos of suspects and fugitives to their Facebook page. Over the last month, the sheriff’s office has posted more than a dozen pictures of suspects in custody, but Marquis Porter’s arrest photo and caption has sparked an uproar on social media.
“I understand posting pics of criminals to raise awareness about dangerous people, but this is just about humiliating and dehumanizing someone,” reads one response to the post.
“I've never in my life been more embarrassed for a department than I have felt now. Your (sic) shaming him,” read another reply.
Others weren’t so sympathetic.
“I'm sorry but this started off as a routine traffic stop... And it ended up with fleeing to elude, intentionally running an officer off the road , then continuing to flee on foot, and they found multiple illegal drugs in his possession and you are honestly going to make a comment on the fact that they "shamed" him for crying?!”
But it isn’t just the caption that many find objectionable.
“Why are they holding onto his dreads? You can easily hold him up by holding onto his shoulders. Kind of messed up,” said one commenter on the PSCO page.
In the accompanying picture, the handcuffed Porter’s head is held by the hands of two deputies, pulled up by his hair. The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office says their deputies had to grab Porter by the hair that so they could snap the photo of him seated on the ground crying.
While some of the photos shared by the PCSO appear to be taken at the scene, Porter’s is the only one among them where deputies are actually holding a suspect in place for the photo opportunity.
When asked why deputies couldn’t have just taken a photo of Porter while he was in the back of the patrol car or while deputies were escorting him, as seen in other suspect photos, a PCSO public information officer simply said deputies had trouble.
In this particular case, apparently it wasn’t that simple and different measures had to be taken in order for the photograph to be taken,” said PCSO’s Melanie Snow.
Snow admits the PCSO’s social media team tried to inject a little humor into this particular Facebook post, which they said was meant to inform the public. But many aren’t laughing. Tampa For Justice’s Russell Meyer says the post was more about humiliation than information, and the fallout could be serious.
They are endangering the whole community when they do this. This incites anger against the police. It doesn’t endear the police to everybody in the community,” said Meyer, who says PCSO should remove the post immediately.
PCSO meanwhile, isn’t backing down.
“I don’t think that we view that post as inappropriate. I think we view that post as stating a list of facts that accompanied the case: these are the crimes he committed, he was crying. He was upset that he was arrested, but I think our deputy was also upset that this man tried to drive a car into him,” said Snow.
The sheriff’s office also provided FOX 13 with body camera video from Porter’s arrest last Thursday. In it Porter apologizes and complies with deputies, but that was after Pasco County sheriff’s deputies say he tried to swerve his truck into a patrol car and then ran from them.
The sheriff’s office says it will not make any changes to the way it posts about arrests on its social media accounts.
“As far as this office is concerned, if you’re arrested in Pasco County and you’re charged with a list of crimes like the ones Mr. Porter was charged with, you can expect to see your face on our social media accounts."
Pasco Sheriff's office addressed the issue in a post on their Facebook page Monday. The post read:
"Over the weekend, a post on our social media has generated some interest. This post is not different than others in the past, we try to always be open and show the citizens of Pasco what their Sheriff's Office faces on a daily basis. We want to take a moment to share with you something that may get overlooked but is something that our members have every single day for those we interact with: compassion. This same compassion was given by our deputies with this same suspect. After an extremely dangerous and stressful situation, which included the suspect attempting to run our deputies off the road, you can see how our deputies took a very stressful situation and de-escalated it. Please view the video below, showing our deputies offering the same man a blanket and water immediately after the scene was secure. We continue to thank our Pasco community and everyone who follows us for your continued support. It is this compassion and desire to serve that drives our deputies each and every day and we thank you for your continued support and prayers."
The video and message was also posted to the Pasco Sheriff's Twitter. The video shows one of the deputies involved in the arrest of Porter talking to him as he sits in the back of the patrol car. The officer asks Porter if he is okay, and makes sure he is warm and covered with a blanket.