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San Franciso Changes Its Mind About Mug Shots

City has stopped releasing them to the public
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 1, 2020 4:38 PM CDT

(Newser) – San Francisco police will stop releasing the mug shots of people who have been arrested unless they pose a threat to the public, as part of an effort to stop perpetuating racial stereotypes, the city's police chief announced Wednesday, the AP reports. San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said the policy, which goes into effect immediately, means the department will no longer release booking photos of suspects to the media or allow officers to post them online. Booking photos are often made public whether or not the person is prosecuted for the alleged crime, which undermines the presumption of innocence and helps perpetuate stereotypes. Jack Glaser, a public policy expert, said data shows black people who are arrested are more likely to have their cases dismissed by prosecutors.

"That may be just part and parcel of the same issue that police will stop and search Blacks at a lower threshold of suspicion in the first place and so, their arrests are more likely to be unsubstantiated," Glaser said. But the mug shots live on. Numerous websites post photos of mug shots online, regardless of whether anyone was convicted of a crime, and then charge a fee to those who want their photo taken down. The phenomenon prompted California's attorney general to charge one of the biggest operators with extortion, money laundering, and identity theft. That contributes to Americans making an unfair association between people of color and crime, Scott said. Large cities like Los Angeles and New York already have policies against releasing booking photos but make exceptions.

(Read more mug shots stories.)

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