At least two New Brunswick police departments have started using social media to enlist the public’s help in finding people with outstanding warrants.
They call it Mandate Wednesday.
Every week, the Woodstock and Kennebecasis police forces post a list of people’s full names, and sometimes the fines or jail time they owe, on Facebook.
Typically, these warrants are for people who have been convicted of a traffic violation, for example, but haven’t paid a fine or served their jail time, or who haven’t did not appear at their court appearance.
Woodstock has been doing so since November 2022, while Kennebecasis started practice in January.
“It’s just a new approach as we’ve tried everything, people are avoiding the police and we think we owe it to the public to carry out these [warrants]”said Inspector Mary Henderson of the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force.
Henderson said that in the first three weeks of January, they resolved warrants with 12 people, some of whom had more than one warrant attached to their names.
So far, the department has released lists of people convicted of impaired driving, driving with a suspended license and outstanding arrest warrants.
Mandate Wednesday could cause harm, says ethicist
Timothy Christie, a University of New Brunswick philosophy professor who writes on ethics, doesn’t believe Term Wednesday is fair.
He said people are held accountable for their actions through the justice system and receive penalties such as fines or jail time.
“They certainly deserve those things because they went through a process in court, where that’s what was determined, and that was determined as an appropriate sanction,” Christie said.
“Nowhere in this punishment did it include public shaming.”
Henderson, however, said Mandate Wednesday was not about shaming people.
“It’s a very public place for people to watch, but does that outweigh the need to enforce those warrants and public safety?”
Christie said the justice system imposes penalties on people so they can correct themselves and reintegrate into society.
“This thing that the police are doing seems to me not to help people reintegrate into society in any meaningful way, but in fact it will make things more difficult for them,” Christie said.
He said life could be harder because being named on Facebook could impact someone’s reputation.
“[Warrant Wednesday] does not contribute to any of the long term goals that we have and use to punish people,” he said.
Henderson disagrees with his assessment.
“I don’t think anyone shouldn’t be able to reintegrate into society,” she said. “They were given ample opportunity by our officers [to resolve their warrants].”
She said if someone’s term is resolved, their name is removed from the Facebook post.
Criminologist sees value in warrant Wednesday
Mary Ann Campbell, director of the Center for Criminal Justice Studies at UNB Saint John, said the police are part of the community and therefore part of the work they do requires the support and l help from the community.
And she thinks that’s something that could work.
“I suspect it will be more efficient than not. So having a list there, there’s probably at least one person on that list that someone could call the police and let them know where they are. “, she said.
She added that getting simple advice from the public — like a phone call saying someone might live or work somewhere — can help departments work on other issues.
“These types of situations can save taxpayers a lot of money by allowing the police to quickly apprehend that person. Then they can spend their time on other types of criminal cases,” she said. .
But it’s not just about posting names. Woodstock’s strength also includes memes — a visual staple on social media — in its Term Wednesday posts.
Woodstock Police did not provide an interview for this story. The Force did not respond to a question about its use of emailed memes before this article was published.
Campbell said intent is likely a way to get people to look at the list of names.
“I think using humor for a serious topic is the best way to go, it’s something that’s open to interpretation,” she said.
She said it was important that whoever posted the posts considered them carefully to make sure they didn’t miss the mark.