Police defend social media deal with fugitive
Torrington, Conn. – Police in a Connecticut city were still searching Friday for a fugitive who failed to honor an agreement and surrender once enough people responded positively to his wanted poster on social media.
Jose Simms, 29, has seven arrest warrants and is being sought as a fugitive after failing to appear in court on charges that range from breach of peace to risk of injury to a child.
He is believed to be somewhere in New York.
Torrington police Lt. Brett Johnson posted on the department’s Facebook page Wednesday that Simms had contacted him through the social media site and agreed to turn himself in if the post containing his poster received 15,000 likes.
The page has far surpassed that number, but still no sign of Simms.
Police said despite the no-show, they are satisfied with their decision to enter into the agreement.
“It’s generated phone calls and tips and leads that we otherwise may not have been able to get,” Lt. Bart Barown said. “We’ve got all kinds of information and tips that will help us.”
Barown said the Facebook post, was just one of many tools being used to try and get Simms into custody. He noted that national media publicity – including a country song parody about the case by the band Dixie Jade – has made it harder for Simms to hide.
“We’re going to get him,” Barown said.
The deal led to some criticism. Maki Haberfeld, an expert in police ethics and procedure at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said Simms is using social media to manipulate both the news media and police, who she said have no business negotiating a deal with a suspect, never mind one that involves likes on Facebook.
“It turns this into a joke,” she said. “People will start looking at these various violations of law as a game.”
Simms did not respond Friday to a Facebook message seeking comment and took down his Facebook page. On Wednesday, he had written that he was a “man of my word” and said he had decided to negotiate his surrender because “looking over your shoulder every 5 seconds can cause a lot of stress.”
He also responded to the original Torrington Police post, complaining about his mug shot on the site, calling it a “trash pic.”
“Jose, it’s the only one we had.hopefully we will get a ‘good’ one soon,” the department replied.