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The Day has a new policy on police logs

We're changing the way we share police logs with our digital audience.

Starting June 1, The Day will no longer send the police log items we collect daily from law enforcement agencies throughout southeastern Connecticut to major search engines, including Google. We will continue to publish the logs on www.theday.com and in our print edition, and they'll remain searchable in our archive. In general, we publish all felonies and all Class A and Class B misdemeanors listed in the Connecticut Penal Code.

Why are we doing this?

The Day has evolved from a legacy print newspaper to a multimedia news outlet with a heavy focus on digital content. Publishing our products on theday.com and sending them to major search engines has enabled us to reach a wider audience. Generally, that's a good thing, since people from near and far are interested in our area. But for those who were arrested here, and later had their charges dismissed, it can be a problem.

As stated in the new policy, which you can find at theday.com/section/faqs, The Day recognizes that people make mistakes or sometimes are not guilty as charged. We recognize that not providing arrest log information to major search engines may be helpful to those who are trying to secure employment or move on with their lives.

"We were receiving frequent calls from readers who said their chances of getting a job was being made difficult because a Google search brought up an arrest from The Day's archives," said Timothy J. Cotter, executive editor for The Day. "I thought we should look at our policy on this and put together a committee of editors and reporters."

The committee met weekly through the late winter and early spring to discuss what would be best for The Day and our audience. We talked about public safety, newsworthiness, personal and police accountability and our obligation as the region's newspaper of record.

We looked at other publications' policies, including The Boston Globe's Start Fresh Initiative, and considered the recent government trends of second chance and clean slate policies. Committee member Joe Ruggeri, our newsroom web developer, checked with our content management system vendor and reported back on the technical feasibility of the proposed changes.

Several of us attended a panel called "Reconsidering Newsworthiness: Balancing the Reputational Harm Caused By Crime Coverage" during the New England Newspaper & Press Association convention in March. Once the committee came to a consensus, we discussed the proposal with our partners at the Trusting News project, which has been helping with our efforts to become more transparent about how we produce the news, before sending our recommendation to Cotter.

"I think our new policy strikes a good balance between our obligation to inform readers of crimes and illegal activities in our region and people's right to move on from a mistake," Cotter said.

The new policy of "unindexing" our police logs from major search engines applies only to those police log items published after June 1, 2021. The committee considered removing or "de-indexing" past police logs from Google, but determined we couldn't do it, technically.

Editor's notes

Our new policy also clarifies how we respond to requests to remove published police briefs or stories once a person proves their charges have been dismissed. When somebody provides us with proof, from a court, that their charges have been dismissed, we'll add an editor's note to that item. The onus is on the person making the request to provide an official document.

In some cases, we also will consider asking Google to remove arrest-related briefs and stories from its search engine by a process known as de-indexing. Again, the person making the request must provide proof from a court that the charges have been dismissed.

Social media

Though we've received requests from people to remove social media posts, the committee determined we're unable to do that. Upon request from those who can provide written proof from a court that their charges have been dismissed, we will consider updating with an editor's note or comment on police-related items that have been posted on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Some of our past social media posts may not be accessible or editable, and we will remind those who request an editor's note on previous posts that amending the items with a comment or editor's note may bring the items back into an active feed, re-exposing the content.

Booking photos

We've also updated our policy on police booking photos, also known as mug shots. Written by committee member John Ruddy, the Day's copy desk chief, the policy doesn't materially change what we've been doing. But we think you might be interested in hearing more about how we decide which mug shots to publish. 

"The Day publishes photos of suspects charged with major crimes as a matter of newsworthiness and public interest. This includes booking photos provided by police departments and photos of court appearances taken by Day photographers or those made available by the Associated Press and other wire services."

"As a rule, we consider 'major crimes' those defined by the Connecticut General Statutes as Class A and B felonies. Generally, we do not publish photos of those charged with lesser crimes even if they are provided by police. But we judge each news story on its individual circumstances and reserve the right to depart from this guideline if events warrant. If, for example, police are seeking a suspect who has not been charged, we will consider publishing a photo or sketch if the person is considered an imminent threat to public safety."

Karen Florin is The Day's engagement editor. She can be reached at k.florin@theday.com.

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