Brooke Buerck


Back in the days of Jesse James, Billy the Kid, and Butch Cassidy, wanted posters were plastered all around town: “Wanted! $5,000 Reward!” Law enforcement agencies still utilize wanted posters today, but they appear more commonly on the internet or in the media rather than in classic paper form with bold lettering and a black-and-white portrait of the suspect that is associated with Western films. The purpose of such wanted “posters” or other similar investigatory tools is to facilitate capture by involving the public and communicate the agency’s priorities by showing the public which individuals and crimes are a top priority. Law enforcement officers in St. Louis County also use a database called the “Wanteds System” as a tool for identifying suspects they want to bring into custody and question. The Wanteds System allows individual officers to input demographic and investigatory information of a person into the database, and then the database transmits the record to law enforcement officers in St. Louis County and surrounding counties in Missouri and Illinois. The record, known as the “Wanted,” prompts any other officer to seize, arrest, and conduct a custodial interrogation of the suspect, all without an official warrant from a judge. Unlike a publicly displayed wanted poster, the Wanteds are accessible only to law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, a suspect can remain in the database for a period of time, such as a few months, or potentially indefinitely, all without the opportunity to challenge the Wanted or to request they be removed from the system.

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