Sheriff’s Office policy prohibits public safety awareness

Some of you may have noticed that the list of people arrested in our paper has grown considerably. This is not necessarily a reflection of an increase in crime in our area, although we are hearing more reports of crime in Navarre. The real reason the list has grown is because the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office is no longer providing the addresses of people arrested. In the past, we have only included people arrested from Navarre or Gulf Breeze. Because we don’t know where the people being arrested are from, we have to include everyone that is arrested in Santa Rosa County.

The SRSO says this has to do with the privacy law that was passed regarding military personnel. We want to clarify what the law says. The law enacted creates a public records exemption for the identification and location information of current or former active-duty service members of the military who served after Sept. 11, 2001. It also includes their spouses and dependents. But – in order to qualify for the exemption, the service member must submit to the agency that retains the information, a written request to exempt the identification and location information from public disclosure and a written statement that he or she has made reasonable efforts to protect the identification and location information from being accessible through other means available to the public. So, unless military members have made the written request and the statement to the SRSO, that information is still public record. How many requests and statements do they have on file?

Not only has this made our job more difficult, but it has left you, the readers, wondering if these people live in your neighborhoods. We would like to be able to tell you if they do, but we don’t know. Ironically, SRSO is not following the law. They are exempting everyone, military or not, without any request for exemption or statement of reasonable effort to protect their information. The addresses are a matter of public record and should be provided. Both Escambia and Okaloosa counties include that information and Escambia uses the same software program for arrests that Santa Rosa does.

We feel the current SRSO approach hampers public safety.

This week you will be able to view the arrests in our paper along with a mugshot. The motivation behind that is – you might not recognize someone by name, but you will probably recognize their face. Happens here all the time. And since we can’t provide you with an address, we thought providing the mugshots might help.


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