Get arrested, get your free phone call, get bailed out. If decades of cop shows and late-night “Dirty Harry” reruns have taught us anything, it’s that the phone call is a key part of the U.S. criminal justice system.
But that was before Facebook.
David White, 19, on Saturday became what many believe is the first person to be sprung from jail thanks to a post on Facebook, after he was picked up at what police called a “raucous” gathering of 100 to 150 people in the leafy suburb of Beverly, Mass., about 25 miles north of Boston. According to a report on Tuesday in the Daily News of Newburyport, five people were arrested at the house party after an “uncooperative crowd” drew officers from three local police departments along with Massachusetts State Police.
Once in custody, White had a hard time reaching anyone by phone to come pay his $40 fee — it wasn’t technically bail because he was being held only on a charge of disturbing the peace — so he asked officers if he could use his phone to post a plea on his Facebook page.
"If they call mom and they can’t get her, we’re not going to say you can’t have another call. Not as long as they’re respectful and cooperative,” Detective Timothy Hegarty told the Daily News, though he admitted that White’s case was the first time he could remember of anyone “Facebooking” their way out of jail.
“A lot of people don’t want to put it on Facebook that they’ve been arrested,” Hegarty said.
It worked out for White, though. Shortly after posting his online call for help, a friend arrived to pay his fee to get him out.
It had to happen sooner or later. Calls go ignored, sometimes people can’t be reached, and many young people these days don’t memorize their friends’ and family’s phone numbers in the first place. They simply store them in their phones and look them up as needed.
For them, social media is actually a more sure-fire way to reach out.
The Beverly Police Department has also jumped into the mix, addressing the incident earlier this week on its own Facebook page.
"We allowed it; it worked. We are only required to allow one phone call, but when people are cooperative with us, we work with them, and that was the case here. Another good reason to own a smartphone."