Blogging Bayport Alameda

November 18, 2020

Return to innocence

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

Okay, first off I will say the Alameda Police Department did a bang up job in apprehending the alleged suspect in an armed robbery from two weeks ago. This happened down the block and another half a block away so it was definitely a concern. I had a direct conversation with the people I live with (both large and not so large) about locking our doors and closing windows which they tend to be lax about.

What is less of a bang up job is how APD’s social media arm decided to announce that they had a suspect in custody. Appended to the post below is the mug shot of the suspect in custody. Additionally APD’s social media person decided to use this opportunity to remind us all about what we can do to safeguard our homes.

Here’s my issues with this social media post. First, there is a comingling of two different stories: the one about the arrest and about general public safety. These should have been two separate posts because the stuff about home safety was a good reminder to the general public. However combining the two along with a mug shot of the suspect in custody feeds into the racial bias that exists about who commits crimes in the US.

The second problem is by far the biggest and one that the City Council should address immediately from a policy standpoint: that is the posting of mug shots. I did a quick search of the term “arrest” on the APD Facebook page and it appears that the posting of mug shots for an arrest announcement is a relatively new thing. In many older posts this graphic was used or other non identifying images used and here and here:

The posting of photos of suspects has happened pretty recently:

It appears that Alameda is moving against the trend of other police departments who are no longer releasing mug shots and deciding that it will put these forward when it had not previously. From an AP article:

San Francisco police will stop releasing the mug shots of people who have been arrested unless they pose a threat to the public, as part of an effort to stop perpetuating racial stereotypes, the city’s police chief announced Wednesday.

The booking photos taken by police when a person is arrested for a crime are often made public whether or not the person is prosecuted for the alleged crime. That can undermine the presumption of innocence and help perpetuate stereotypes, experts said.

Large cities like Los Angeles and New York already have policies against releasing booking photos but make exceptions. 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. Georgia and New York stopped releasing booking photos in an effort to curtail websites that charge people to remove their picture and booking information.

Eugene O’Donnell, a former NYPD officer and professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said not every department that has a policy against releasing mug shots gives a reason. The San Francisco Police Department is the first he is aware of to say it is implementing the policy to stop racial bias, he said.

“For a democratic society, we’re very cavalier about people’s rights and the presumption of innocence,” O’Donnell said. “We take people’s freedom away and ruin people’s reputations before anybody’s ever made a decision as to whether or not the person committed the offense.”


I can understand the visceral relief that residents feel when their public safety officials tell them that a “bad person” has been caught and that they no longer need to be on high alert, but our criminal justice system also allows for people to have a presumption of innocence as well. Plastering someone’s mug shot who has yet to be tried in a court of law is definitely not promoting that presumption and it’s incumbent on our local government to not contribute to the systemic issues around racism.


  1. There seems to be a backlash to the public’s reaction to the Mali Watkins incident, as well as Chief Rolleri’s departure – all timed around a pandemic and a heated election season. We’ve been seeing an uptick in crime, perceived or otherwise, due to the general environment being created by the pandemic and there’s a segment of our population that’s attributing that specifically to the “defund police” movement and the city council. This same segment tried to capitalize on that narrative by pushing a “tough on crime” Republican candidate for city council, and APD social media seems to be flaming this pendulum shift in momentum to garner more public support to counteract the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer. It sort of seems to be workingbfor now, so hopefully the adults in the room can step up.

    Comment by Reality — November 18, 2020 @ 7:39 am

    • It seems that the city government as a whole, or at least that part of it that communicates via Ms. Henry’s office, perceives or otherwise an uptick in crime; violent crime in particular.

      Comment by MP — November 18, 2020 @ 8:26 am

      • MP – you’re missing my point. Whether real or perceived, people are capitalizing on it to influence the sentiments and play on fear of people to drive up support for a tougher police department, which is a 180 from the conversation we were having over the summer about a reimagined police department that checks its racial biases after the Mali Watkins incident.

        Comment by Reality — November 18, 2020 @ 8:58 am

        • Sorry for missing your point. Do you believe that APD does not want to have its racial biases checked and is attempting to avoid that through its press releases?

          Comment by MP — November 18, 2020 @ 9:23 am

        • MP – many people I spoke with, who are involved with the different committees related to APD and racial biases, have told me that they definitely feel like APD is doubling down instead of being cognizant of the issues affecting the minority community. While the Facebook postings are not a fair representation of an entire police department, it only feeds into the general belief that APD still has a long way to go. The fact that the police union endorsed Gig Codiga after having backed Jim Oddie in the past – yea, that did not help either.

          Comment by Reality — November 18, 2020 @ 1:40 pm

  2. Sorry not sorry…due to social media, data storage, and security devices, personal privacy is dead and don’t worry, he’ll be out on the streets with no bail soon….”but every picture tells a story, don’t it?”

    Besides photos of a maskless Nancy Pelosi getting her hair done in SF, or Hunter Biden with a crack pipe in his mouth, how about photos of Governor Newsom having dinner inside at the $400 a person French Laundry while telling Californians the day before to eat outside, wear a mask, clean restrooms every 15 minutes, and effectively shut down Thanksgiving, funerals, weddings church attendance and businesses?

    Bill Melugin
    EXCLUSIVE: Full story re: photos of Gavin Newsom at Napa dinner party we obtained. Responses from Newsom’s team as well as Jason Kinney’s team included. His team also referred us to a Town & Country magazine photo describing the seating as outdoors.…

    Comment by Nowyouknow — November 18, 2020 @ 7:56 am

    • PS: Just a reminder: Trump Lost.wah ha ha ha ha ha!!!

      Comment by john doe — November 19, 2020 @ 8:49 am

  3. With the increase in crime and armed robberies and shootings happening in Alameda, it’s beginning to feel like we’re descending into the wild west. I agree, we need to protect ourselves, and I think the list that was provided by the APD is a good one.

    But as a genealogist and historian, whenever I recognize a trend I tend to look back in history to see what I can learn about the root causes, and outcomes. History is a wise teacher.

    This morning I looked up the Great Depression and increases in crime, and I found some disturbing parallels between then and now. During the Great Depression — with the huge increase in unemployment, food lines, and poverty, criminal activity also increased. Bank robberies, gang wars, and shootings rose sharply during the Great Depression. Lest not forget Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow went on a two – year crime spree during the Great Depression; and the kidnapping and murder of the infant son of Charles Lindbergh happened during the Great Depression. And there were others like Ma Barker – mother of the Barker gang, and Pretty Boy Floyd who robbed banks. Farmers who lost their farms during the Great Depression, loved Pretty Boy Floyd because he destroyed mortgage documents during his bank robberies.

    Please note, history has recorded that crimes were committed by both blacks and whites alike during the Great Depression. The increases in crime appeared to be more about trying to “survive one of the the worse economic periods in our history”. Fast forward, we are in the middle of a world-wide pandemic with over 10M people infected, over 12M people are unemployed, and the food lines everywhere are getting longer and longer.

    Interestingly, crime began to decrease with the passage of the New Deal and as the economy improved.

    So yes, let’s protect ourselves – these are very scary times. But let’s also pressure the Senate and the House to come together and pass a bill to provide more relief, more stimulus, and extended unemployment benefits for those in need.

    Comment by Karen Bey — November 18, 2020 @ 9:56 am

  4. Lauren, your objection to mug shots is 100% on target. It not only offends the presumption of innocence but invades privacy and destroys lives. Richard Jewell is a prime example. I would even question the release of the name unless there was a clear public safety reason for doing so.

    Comment by Paul Foreman — November 18, 2020 @ 1:18 pm

  5. Excellent points, Lauren. Thanks for reporting this.

    Comment by egelblock — November 19, 2020 @ 6:49 am

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