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San Francisco police ending release of mug shots

San Francisco police ending release of mug shots
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San Francisco police announced Thursday that they will end the practice of releasing mug shots to the public except in cases where the suspect presents a danger to the public.

The Associated Press reported that San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott announced the move at a press conference, pointing to calls from activists around the country for reform in law enforcement.

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

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Scott, who is Black, shared his concern that the practice could contribute to racist stereotyping and profiling.

“You walk into a department store and you get followed around and the security is looking at you suspiciously, I’ve experienced that,” Scott added.

The state has also taken legal action against websites that post mug shots of all persons arrested by California police, even those not convicted, while demanding money for the photos to be taken down, according to the AP.

The decision comes as cities around the country are reexamining policing after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed in Minneapolis police custody. Video of Floyd's arrest showed a white officer kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes; that officer has since been fired and charged with second-degree murder.

The Tampa Bay Times recently made a similar decision to end its practice of publishing galleries of mug shots in its publication, with the paper's editor stating that the galleries "serve little journalistic purpose."

“The galleries lack context and further negative stereotypes,” said Tampa Bay Times Executive Editor Mark Katches.

New York State Police moved to end the publication of mug shots in 2019, unless such publication served a law enforcement purpose.

"The law is not designed to limit all access to these photos, but instead to protect the privacy rights of individuals involved in the justice system and to allow law enforcement agencies to determine when disclosure is reasonable given the circumstances," the agency told The Hill in a statement.