Swarms of racist jokes and memes flooded the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page after they posted a picture of an Asian man showing off his grills during a booking in California.
What happened: Anthony Wong, a 33-year-old man on probation, was arrested by the SLO County Sheriff for violating his probation after he was allegedly found with over 1,000 counterfeit Fentanyl and Acetaminophen pills worth $5,000 to $10,000, according to the SLO County Sheriff’s Office.
(To view the photos below, you must click on the Facebook post and look through the social media platform.)
- Wong’s booking picture, where he can be seen smiling in front of the camera and showing off his dental grills, elicited racist jokes from Facebook users, according to The Tribune.
- Some comments under the post, which SLO County Sheriff’s Office has already seemingly removed, read: “He made the Wong move,” “Why does homeboy look like an old Asian lady?” and “Now I really wanna watch the ‘Hangover’ because of all these memes.”
- Other users questioned the sheriff’s office for posting the peculiar booking photo online. Instead of apologizing, the authorities said, “This was a wanted felon whose photo was taken shortly after his arrest. Mr. Wong was not shy about showing off his grill. The photo was not cropped or altered.”
- The Tribune pointed out Wong’s booking picture is different than the other ones posted by the SLO Sheriff’s Department. Wong’s mug shot lacked the gray background typically used when taking photos of arrested individuals.
Other details: This situation has sparked conversation about the new legislature in California. The state passed a new law that prevents police departments from posting mug shots of arrested individuals suspected of committing nonviolent crimes.
- Assembly Bill No. 1475, approved and filed on July 23, will take effect in January 2022.
- The bill outlines that police departments may only post a mugshot of an individual under certain conditions, such as if the suspect is a fugitive or is an imminent threat to public safety and also if the photo could help aid authorities in that person’s arrest.
- Booking photos posted by police departments are often used “to shame and ridicule suspects, many of whom are dealing with serious drug addiction and mental health issues,” Evan Low (D-Campbell) said in the bill analysis. “Furthermore, these posts perpetuate harmful racial stereotypes and foster implicit bias in a community and police force.”
- In a statement, Assistant County Counsel for SLO County Nina Negranti said the SLO County Sheriff’s Office is making changes in compliance with the newly passed law. “They won’t email a press release with a link to the mug shot. They won’t be able to have the mug shot of the nonviolent suspect on any type of social media platform,” Negranti said.
- Although the bill doesn’t take effect until next year, Grover Beach Police Department has already applied the new law into its system.