Police in Oregon have come under fire for digitally removing a man’s facial tattoos from his mugshot to better conform to the descriptions of a wanted bank robber.
Tyrone Allen Lamont has been charged as being the “Foul Mouth Bandit,” who has been involved in robbery and attempted robbery of four banks over four days in April 2017. The problem is, Allen has several prominent facial tattoos, yet none of the witnesses to the robberies described any such tattoos on the man robbing the banks.
From The Washington Post:
“[I]nvestigators used Photoshop to digitally alter his mug shot, covering up his distinctive tattoos. Two of the tellers, who weren’t told that the image had been edited, subsequently picked him out of a photo array of five similar-looking men and identified him as the robber.
Now, a federal judge in Oregon is tasked with determining whether that crucial evidence should be thrown out of court, and whether Allen’s rights were violated. His attorney, Mark Ahlemeyer, argued that the question has weighty implications, given that today’s technology makes it easier than ever to manipulate a photograph.
If covering up a suspect’s prominent facial tattoos is considered fair game, the federal public defender wrote in a recent motion, “there would presumably be nothing wrong with adjusting various pixels to make someone’s face appear slimmer, so long as the government’s theory was that the suspect had gained weight since the crime.”
Though this is the first instance of such tactics being challenged in an Oregon court, it is apparently not the first time Oregon police have employed the tactic:
“Mark Weber, the forensic criminalist who “painted over the tattoos,” testified he had edited other suspects’ photos for lineups before and didn’t write up a report because the police department doesn’t require it.”
A U.S. District Judge is expected to have a ruling on the matter published soon.
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