When it comes to teaching twenty-somethings a lesson, Facebook can be just as useful a tool as jail-time. At least, that was the approach Jacksonville police took recently when officers posted photos on the social-networking site of two local women charged with misdemeanors.
Christina Lynn Barksdale, 26, was in municipal court Tuesday evening for a hearing on a prior shoplifting charge. Barksdale was there with her friend, Andrea Kristin DeCarlo, 20.
While at the courthouse, the women were both visibly intoxicated, Jacksonville police Chief Tommy Thompson said.
Additionally, court officials told police they caught Barksdale stealing from the women's restroom: She took two rolls of toilet paper, a can of Lysol and a bottle of soap, Thompson said.
As a result, Barksdale was charged with theft from a public building, a misdemeanor, and with public intoxication. Police also charged DeCarlo with three misdemeanors: possession of a controlled substance, being a minor in possession of alcohol and public intoxication.
Then, on Wednesday morning, Thompson took to Facebook about the incident, which he called "the talk of the department."
"I thought maybe we need to let the general public know," Thompson said.
He wrote a post about the arrests and the women's alleged behavior at court. The first post, published Wednesday morning, didn't include their names or photos, but asked Facebook users if police should post names and photos.
More than 600 people have liked the post, and more than 100 have commented. One commenter asked for the names and photos to be released so businesses could be aware of potential shoplifters.
That prompted Thompson to post on Facebook a second time, with the women's photographs and identities.
The chief said Facebook is a public forum, and he wanted to keep people informed of what was happening in their town.
The posts have received mixed reviews. Several of the comments found the incident humorous or defend police for posting the photos. Others thought police may have gone too far and even ask for prayers for the two women.
Thompson said the posts have drawn the most Facebook attention the Police Department has ever had. Asked if he would post something like this again, Thompson said he would, "if it's something out of the ordinary."
Thompson said Jacksonville police haven't developed a social media policy. Some other local departments with Facebook pages and Twitter accounts have developed such policies. At the Anniston Police Department, it's protocol to only post felony arrests.
Still, Anniston police Lt. Allen George said he understands why posting misdemeanor information could be helpful for police.
"The fear of having your face posted all over social media would be a deterrent," said George.
DeCarlo was released from the Jacksonville City Jail on Wednesday. Attempts Monday to contact her were unsuccessful.
Barksdale remains in jail and could serve up to six months and pay a $500 fine, police said.
She was originally in court for a charge of shoplifting from Walmart.
Copyright 2012 - The Anniston Star, Ala.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service