San Francisco Police Dept Ends Mug Shot Releases — Because ‘Racial Stereotypes’ or Something

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
AP featured image
In this May 12, 2015 photo, a San Francisco Police officer stands on a street in San Francisco. The original charges were shocking enough: six San Francisco police officers were accused of stealing from suspects living in seedy residential hotels. Then federal prosecutors released racist, homophobic and ethnically insensitive email and text messages exchanged among more than a dozen officers, prompting the San Francisco district attorney to launch a wide-ranging investigation of the police department while considering dismissing up to 3,000 criminal cases involving the officers. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

In what appears to be yet another sign of acquiescence in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, the San Francisco Police Department will no longer release mug shots to the media — effective immediately.

The SFPD will also stop posting mug shots online.

Booking photos are taken after someone is arrested, and are often made public whether or not a suspect is ultimately prosecuted, which the department says undermines the presumption of innocence.

Okay. But why the sudden change? Because, as reported by the San Francisco Examiner, the practice “reinforces racial stereotypes and stigmatizes people who have not been convicted of a crime.”

SFPD Chief Bill Scott submitted the proposal to the Police Commission, which already had the support of Commissioner John Hamasaki, who on Monday said black and brown people in disadvantaged communities are unfairly “publicly shamed” by the release of pre-conviction photos, adding:

The end result is racial stereotypes are reinforced to the public and the arrestee, who may not even end up charged with a crime, will lose their employment prospects and face shame and stigma in the community.

In the proposal, Scott said “regulating the release of booking photos can help prevent the potentially negative outcome for individuals who are presumed innocent and subsequently not charged or convicted.”


The proposal says the new “thoughtful process” may “help mitigate or avoid perpetuating negative stereotypes which can contribute to implicit and explicit bias in policing and by community members.”

Scott said exceptions will be made if a crime suspect poses a public threat, or if officers need help with locating a suspect or at-risk person.

Fair enough.

But why is “all of the above” only true for “black and brown” people? Aren’t white people, who are also presumed innocent, potentially subject to the same public shame, loss of employment, and potential stigmatization by release of their pre-conviction mug shots?

If not, why not?

The change comes on the heels of an announcement by Mayor London Breed in early June that the SFPD would no longer respond to calls for assistance in cases not involving criminal activity.

As we reported, a study two years ago found that the SFPD took nearly 3 hours on average to respond to low-priority “Class 3” calls for assistance. No problem, as the mayor apparently saw it — just eliminate those calls, altogether. There. Problem fixed.

Breed said police would be replaced by trained, unarmed professionals to limit unnecessary confrontation between the department and the community, adding that the “police reforms” would also ban the use of “military-grade weapons” and divert funding to the African-American community.


The question begs to be asked. Is there a pattern here?

Why is the money saved by not responding to non-criminal calls diverted only to the African-American community? Why is the SFPD ending the release of mug shots and suggesting that only people of color are stigmatized by the practice?

Then again, why is “all lives matter” deemed “racist,” while those who refuse to say (only) “black lives matter” are “racist,’ as well?

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, there seem to be far more questions than legitimate answers.


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