Fault Lines
24 April 2017

Ohio Cops Defend Posting Photos Of Overdosing Couple On Facebook

September 15, 2016 (Fault Lines) — The East Liverpool, Ohio police department is standing by its decision to post some controversial photos on their Facebook page of 47-year-old James Lee Acord and 50-year-old Rhonda L. Pasek overdosing on heroin in a car. Pasek’s four-year old grandson can be seen in the images staring out of the car’s back window. The photos were taken shortly after Acord narrowly missed colliding with a parked school bus.

None of the faces, including the child’s, were blurred out of the posted images or the subsequent local television coverage that prominently featured the photos.

After Acord and Pasek were revived with overdose reversal drug Narcan, they were arrested and Columbiana County Children’s Services were notified.

“This is reality. Every day we’re dealing with this. We need help and we don’t have the resources to deal with it,” John Lane, the East Liverpool police, told the Guardian.

Lane said the East Liverpool police department’s decision to post the photos on Facebook was not an impulsive one. They decided to post the photos, along with the police affidavit with the unredacted names of the adults and a description of the incident, after hours of deliberation and discussion with the local prosecutor and mayor.

Brian Allen, the city’s director of public service and safety, said the city received a public records request for the photos from a local TV station. After discussion involving Allen’s office, the mayor’s office and the city’s legal council, they decided to release the photos without blurring the child’s face.

“We are well aware that some may be offended by these images and for that we are truly sorry, but it is time that the non-drug using public sees what we are now dealing with on a daily basis,” the city said in the Facebook post.

This child can’t speak for himself but we are hopeful his story can convince another user to think twice about injecting this poison while having a child in their custody.

The controversial photos immediately went viral. Many community members were upset that the child’s face had not been blurred out of the photos, and addiction advocates were critical of an anti-drug PSA that relied on “shaming” tactics to dissuade drug use. Other commentators felt differently, expressing their gratitude to the police department for having the gumption to show the “real face” of the opium epidemic.

Kathleen McCoy, a chemical dependency specialist at the Counseling Center of Columbiana County, is the first to admit that heroin is a huge problem in Ohio:

I have an understanding of how addiction is a disease in the brain; it’s a chronic illness that can be treated. So you’re looking at two individuals, in the car with a child. And you’re looking at — once people get addicted, it’s more of a sickness that needs to be treated, versus these are terrible people.

In the meantime, Acord has pleaded no contest to operating a vehicle while under the influence and endangering a child. He was sentenced to 360 days in jail, according to CNN affiliate WTOV-TV. Pasek pleaded not guilty to endangering a child, disorderly conduct and public intoxication.

4 Comments on this post.

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  • Mark Bennett
    15 September 2016 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    Excuse me, but I see nothing that needs defending other than the actions of alert law enforcement that likely saved three lives.

  • Dan Rosendorf
    16 September 2016 at 3:02 am - Reply

    Given that things posted to the internet are in the public domain pretty much forever and a day I’m not sure posting a photo of a kid with his heroin addled grandparents is the smartest thing to do. Who knows what employer will google him in 10-15 years time and figure, “Well if he was exposed to drugs that early it’s bound to make it much more likely he will have drug abuse problem. Let’s not hire him.”

    That’s not even considering what kind of psychological and social problems this might present him now (no clue how his peers see this, but I sure remember kids being bullied for what their parents did).

    Can’t say I understand what purpose posting the photo with the kid’s face unblurred had. I can see the point of shaming the grandparents, but the kid?

  • Andrew King
    16 September 2016 at 8:00 am - Reply

    It is worth mentioning that if indeed the decision was in response to a public records request, then the PD wouldn’t be allowed to redact names or photos in what was sent out to the media. So, the horse would have already been out of the door when they tried to close the door.

    • Jamie
      20 September 2016 at 1:19 pm - Reply

      Of the minor? Of course they can. In fact, they usually do.

      Recent Ohio example: The public footage released related to Tamir Rice’s death blurs his sister’s face in the squad car.