SFPD Chief Banned Mugshots Because It’s Racist & Anti-Black

February 5, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO, California—The suspect in the brutal assault that fatally injured 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee last week entered a not guilty plea to a homicide charge during a court appearance Wednesday, according to CBSN Bay Area.

19-year-old Antoine Watson appeared briefly in court, however, the judge did not allow media to capture Watson’s face, fearing a negative backlash toward the African-American community.

Many netizens were wondering why no mugshots were being provided. Simple explanation, Police Chief Bill Scott banned the release of mugshots except to warn the public of imminent danger or to help find a missing or wanted person back in July 2020, according to SF Examiner.

He moved forward with the policy after consulting with academics and facing calls to limit the disclosure of booking photos from critics including Police Commissioner John Hamasaki and the Public Defender’s Office.

In a statement, Scott said research suggests the widespread publication of booking photos across the nation “fosters racial bias and vastly overstates the propensity of Black and brown men to engage in criminal behavior.”

“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.

This means news media can no longer obtain booking photos of those suspected of major crimes like homicide or arrested in connection with high-profile incidents, according to SF Examiner.

The policy also largely limits the booking photos that police can share on social media accounts like the Tenderloin Station Twitter feed, which garnered a following by sharing mugshots of suspected drug dealers and others.

“I am grateful to the chief for taking a strong stand against posting booking photos online,” said Hamasaki. “I am hopeful this will send a strong message to other departments around the country that it is well past time to stop demeaning and degrading Black and brown individuals through posting their mugshots.”

Public Defender Manohar Raju previously said his office had advocated for the change for years.

“Releasing mugshot after mugshot of mostly young men of color feeds implicit biases that exacerbate an already broken system,” Raju said in a statement last June 2020.

A few days after Vicha’s hate-filled attack, another African-American male was captured on CCTV assaulting a 91-year-old Asian elder. The possible same assailant has also been linked with the assault of a 60-year-old male and a 50-year-old female, all Asian.

Feature Images via SF Examiner & CBSN Bay Area

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