San Francisco Police End Release of Most Mug Shots to ‘Reduce Bias’

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The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) announced Wednesday that it would no longer release most booking photos in an effort to reduce racial bias.

The SFPD’s press release stated:

San Francisco Chief of Police William Scott today implemented a groundbreaking new policy that will end the San Francisco Police Department’s practice of releasing booking photos or “mug shots” 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 department’s decision was “heavily influenced” by its partnership with experts and also received input from academia, community groups, news organizations, and official groups such as San Francisco’s Police Commission.

Los Angeles and New York City have similar policies but do make exceptions, according to CBS SF Bay Area.

“For example, the New York Police Department, the nation’s largest, 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,” the report said.

Wednesday, Scott tweeted that the policy emerged from “compelling research” regarding the publication of booking photos:

However, Twitter users criticized the decision and questioned the department’s transparency.

“So the public doesn’t need to see who might be victimizing them on the SF streets? Drug dealers that have multiple arrests and Out on OR? Give me a break!” one person wrote.

“Such a shame you bowed to (obvious) pressure, political & otherwise,” another person said.

“Your pandering is not a good stand for any police department to take. Be careful because we, the public, will reap what you sow! Victims R more important, not optics. Very disappointed you/dept. succumbed,” the user continued.

In the press release, Scott said the department was “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.”

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