San Francisco police will stop releasing most mug shots in an effort to stop fueling “racial bias” due to the fact the majority of those arrested belong to certain races and not others, the department’s chief announced Wednesday.
San Francisco Chief of Police William Scott said that the booking photos would not be released any longer, effective immediately, “except in circumstances where their release is necessary to warn the public of imminent danger or to enlist the public’s assistance in locating individuals, including at-risk persons.”
The policy change was influenced by “academia, community groups, news organizations and members of San Francisco’s Police Commission, Public Defender’s Office, District Attorney’s Office and Department of Police Accountability,” according to the statement.
“This policy emerges from compelling research suggesting that the widespread publication of police booking photos in the news and on social media creates an illusory correlation for viewers that fosters racial bias and vastly overstates the propensity of black and brown men to engage in criminal behavior,” Scott said in a statement posted to the San Francisco Police Department website.
“By implementing this groundbreaking new policy today, SFPD is taking a stand that walks the walk on implicit bias while affirming a core principle of procedural justice — that those booked on suspicion of a crime are nonetheless presumed innocent of it,” Scott said.
NBC report: Large cities like Los Angeles and New York already have policies against releasing booking photos, but make exceptions. The New York City Police Department, the nation’s largest, releases information on arrests, but doesn’t put out mug shots unless investigators believe it will prompt more witnesses to come forward or if it will assist in finding a suspect.
But San Francisco will be the first to adopt the policy specifically as part of an effort to stop spreading negative stereotypes of minorities, something Scott — who is Black — said he is all too familiar with when not in uniform.
“You walk into a department store and you get followed around and the security is looking at you suspiciously — I’ve experienced that,” Scott said