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Reactions divided over Dodge County Sheriff's Office posting OWI arrests

Posted: 8:19 PM, Aug 28, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-28 21:19:01-04

The Dodge County Sheriff's Office's new approach to combat impaired driving has garnered a lot of attention.

Earlier this month, Sheriff Dale Schmidt announced they would start posting OWI arrests to their Facebook page as part of their crash reduction strategy. Wednesday morning, they issued their first post. It entailed an explanation of their new policy and information on six OWI arrests within the last week, including names and booking photos.

"You could call it public shaming, but if it saves a life we've accomplished our goal. I think what you need to do is look at the other side at the family members who were impacted by these crashes or they’ve lost a loved one," Schmidt said in early August.

The single post generated more than 300 comments, with people either supporting or condemning the approach.

"I wish the other counties would do it. I salute him and I'm happy he's doing it," said Marla Hall.

Hall's son was one of four people killed after they were hit by a reported drunk driver. Since then, she has become an advocate for tougher OWI laws in Wisconsin.

"I wish the other counties would do it. I salute him and I'm happy he's doing it." — Marla Hall, whose son was killed by a reported drunk driver

"I think it's an awful thing. What it amounts to is public shaming of people who have not yet been convicted of anything," said Jonathan LaVoy, an attorney in Wauwatosa who specializes in drunk driving offenses.

LaVoy said he supports ideas to combat impaired driving but publicizing arrest information doesn't make sense.

"We have to be responsible in the way that we approach it, and the ends don't always justify the means. We can't take on an approach that may hurt people in an unreasonable way simply to create a deterrence," said LaVoy.

Schmidt stood by the new policy, adding that for the last several years their office has released arrest records, which are public record, to media daily. This approach just makes it public and more consistent.

"We have to be responsible in the way that we approach it, and the ends don't always justify the means. We can't take on an approach that may hurt people in an unreasonable way simply to create a deterrence." — attorney Jonathan LaVoy

The OWI arrests will be posted Wednesdays.