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The Inquirer introduces new policy against use of mug shots

Publishing police mugshots along with crime stories has been widespread and routine. Here's why The Inquirer is no longer doing it.

At most news organizations, mugshots are a default companion to many crime stories. The Inquirer has been no different, routinely publishing dozens of police booking photos a year.

That is no longer the case. The Philadelphia Inquirer will use mugshots infrequently, and only when there is a compelling reason to include the image.

Here’s why:

  1. Because of longstanding racial disparities in arrest rates, mugshots disproportionately feature Black and Latinx people. Unrelenting, routine publication of such mugshots strengthens stereotypes and contributes to systemic racism.

  2. Pre-conviction mugshots are inherently unfair, depicting suspects as criminals before guilt or innocence has been established.

  3. Online, mugshots exist indefinitely, easily findable through search engines. Years after the alleged offense, mugshots on or other news sites can make it harder for individuals to find jobs and move on with their lives.

  4. Many published mugshots feature private individuals, charged with routine crimes. They are frequently published out of habit. The news value of these photos is often negligible.

There are some instances where The Inquirer may still use mugshots. A mugshot may appear if the photo depicts a public figure, for instance, or if the alleged crime has achieved broad, regional or national notoriety. The Inquirer will also consider post-conviction publication of mugshots connected to criminal proceedings that we have followed extensively, if no other appropriate image is available. If there is a compelling and immediate public safety reason to publish a mugshot, we will do so. These uses will be rare.

— Danese Kenon, Director of Video and Photography