Insight & Analysis

Wanted: 15,000 likes on Facebook

Published: Jun 2019

Fugitive offers to surrender to police only if enough people like his wanted poster on social media.

As chutzpahs go, Jose Simms’ extraordinarily cheeky demand of Connecticut police pursuing his arrest takes some beating.

The fugitive, aged 29, offered his surrender only if the police managed to secure 15,000 ‘likes’ for his wanted poster on Facebook. Amazingly, in a move that at least one expert calls “unethical”, The City of Torrington Police Department agreed. The department put a poster with Simms’ mugshot on its Facebook page, encouraging followers to like it and share it on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and “whatever other platforms are out there.”

Believed to be holed up somewhere in New York, Simms has seven arrest warrants against his name 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.

Torrington police Lt. Brett Johnson revealed Simms’ offer on the department’s Facebook page. Indeed, Johnson says he negotiated Simms down from 20,000 likes. “It will be difficult but is doable,” Johnson wrote.

Johnson also suggests that if anyone knows where Simms is hiding they could let police know and save the department some suspense.

It’s a joke

But Maki Haberfeld, an expert in police ethics and procedure at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, believes Simms is using social media to manipulate both the news media and police, who she says have no business negotiating a deal with a suspect, never mind one that involves likes on Facebook.

“It turns this into a joke,” she says. “People will start looking at these various violations of law as a game.”

Simms, contacted by The Associated Press through Facebook, says he is serious about the offer. “I wanted to give them a little incentive for all the hard work they put in to catch me,” he wrote.

Simms says the charges stemmed from domestic problems and he is tired of running from authorities. “Looking over your shoulder every five seconds can cause a lot of stress,” he wrote.

Torrington police did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

Simms says he is prepared to live up to his end of the agreement, insisting he is a “man of my word.”

Haberfield says Sims is clearly getting a lot of attention, and that is exactly what he wants, adding: “This is 100% manipulation. And for police, it’s not an ethical thing to do.”

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