Sunday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel featured an unusual look, to say the least. Ninety-two mug shots, colorized at what, at first, seems to be random.
These mug shots, however, are of police officers. Milwaukee police officers who have been found guilty of various infractions. The front-page package kicks off a huge, three-part look at police discipline — or lack thereof — in the area.
Click for a larger look.
Visual editor Ed Brud explains:
This one’s been a long time coming and a pretty big team effort involving our projects group.
It starts, of course, with reporter Gina Barton‘s dogged pursuit over probably two years of records of police doing bad things. Then she managed to round up all the mug shots of the officers involved, most of which are their ID photos. Online design began over the summer. Print design began in earnest in September.
We knew early on that our photos on this weren’t going to be stellar. Who’s going to agree to be the poster child for bad behavior? And who’s going to try to paparazzi a man who carries a gun and a badge for a living? So we had a couple of choices. We could have just made it a big headline and some pullouts. We could have gone the conceptual route, which would have been nice but maybe not so high-impact. Or we could do what we wound up doing.
I think there were several on the planning team that thought the best way to go was the mugs. They’d be much more informational and direct than any conceptual illustration or design. We were going to use them somewhere in the presentation, why not right out front where everyone could see?
Our online team on this, Bill Schultz and intern Emily Yount, was putting together an outstanding interactive database of each officer, the infraction or infractions and the outcome. Their early drafts consisted of mug shots toned by color in a horizontal block. Click a mug shot and get a wealth of information.
Here are screenshots of what the Journal Sentinel posted online as part of this series. Click on one of the mug shots…
…to see a dossier on that particular officer.
To the right are other officers with that same infraction. This one was DUI.
In September I did an early, rough 1A concept sketch in InDesign based on the online concept. It carried a strong wow factor but drew concerns about whether we were being fair to the officers. Could we get 93 mugs onto 1A? Are we picking on the officers? Should we run the mugs in their natural colors or follow the lead of the web site?
In the end we thought the mug shots would be both a great way to show our readers the extent of the problem and a great promo for the web site. We thought following the lede of the database would be both more informational and less chaotic-looking. It was going to take a lot of real estate on 1A, but it was a major piece on a pretty serious issue so we didn’t have much problem selling it.
Designer Nick Lujero took the handoff to develop and refine the concept. Unfortunately, we couldn’t just pick up the low resolution mugs that were made for the online presentation, so Nick hand-toned every one of those again for print, then created an InDesign framework for them. We were puzzling over some of the more difficult ones as late as [Saturday] night. He also worked with the group to develop the rough concept into an actual print information graphic, complete with the color coding and offenses key.
The mug shots are tinted, plus they have a thin stripe down the left side.
That ties into the key, just below the story.
By the way, the Journal Sentinel used only 92 of the 93 mug shots they had in hand for this presentation. One of the officers is an undercover cop, so the paper held that one back.
The three inside pages were a challenge because of a paucity of visuals — couple of graphics and a few more mugs, but Nick managed to keep it from getting overly daunting.
Of the inside content, Graphics Editor Lou Saldivar‘s process graphic was a particularly nice way to explain what happens to officers who are accused of wrongdoing.
Here is Lou’s graphic. Click for a readable view.
Here are the inside pages: Page 20, page 21…
…and page 22. Click any of them for a larger look.
If you think the print version is good, check out the online database.
This was part one of a three-part series. Find part one here, with a number of sidebars. Read how the Journal Sentinel reported the story and how it took more than $2,000 in fees and a year-and-a-half to compile the police records.
Part two of the series runs Wednesday. Part three runs next Sunday.
Average daily circulation for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is 194,436.