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San Francisco Police Chief: Public Mug Shots Perpetuate Racial Stereotypes

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San Francisco police will stop making public the mug shots of people who have been arrested unless they pose a threat to the public in an effort to stop perpetuating racial stereotypes, the city’s police chief announced Wednesday.

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said the department will no longer release booking photos of suspects to the media or allow officers to post them online.

The policy takes effect Wednesday.

Booking photos are often made public whether or not the person is prosecuted for the alleged crime.

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.

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The phenomenon prompted California’s attorney general to charge one of the biggest operators with extortion, money laundering and identity theft.

Scott said that public mug shots contribute to Americans making an unfair association between minorities and crime.

“This is just one small step but we hope this will be something that others might consider doing as well,” he said.

Large cities like Los Angeles and New York already have policies against releasing booking photos but make exceptions.

Do you believe all mug shots should be released to the public?

For example, the New York Police Department releases information on arrests but doesn’t put out mug shots unless investigators believe that will prompt more witnesses to come forward or aid in finding a suspect.

In San Francisco, the only exceptions will be if a crime suspect poses a threat or if officers need help locating a suspect or an at-risk person, Scott said.

Under the policy, the release of photos or information on a person who is arrested will also require approval from the police department’s public relations team.


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