The Independent‘s Suspect Identification Policy

An Explanation of Our Policy Regarding Those Accused of Crimes

It is the policy of The Santa Barbara Independent to exercise editorial discretion in reporting the names of individuals accused of certain crimes.

The City of Santa Barbara Police Department and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department both deploy vigorous public information efforts, announcing the names of people arrested and the charges against them, often accompanied by booking photographs. We fear that the mere accusation of criminal conduct may carry the presumption of guilt, especially since certain crimes are sufficiently heinous that the charges alone convey a stain of guilt that cannot be erased no matter the eventual outcome of the legal process.

In such instances, we will withhold the names of the accused at least until we have exhausted all means allowing the accused to respond to the accusations or until official charges have been filed by the proper authorities.

We recognize that this might place us at a competitive disadvantage with other news outlets in the region that immediately report the names of the accused, but we believe that care and caution should sometimes take precedence over speed. The media’s growing willingness to repeat and report anything appearing in a law enforcement agency press release has worried many in our community, and even some officers of the law have expressed concern.

Our policy intends to address those concerns and protect the truly innocent.

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