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Few of us would shed a tear at the arrest of an investment banker. Yet there is something a little bit disturbing about this image. On the left you will see a man who, whatever you think of him, has so far been convicted of no crime. On the right, you can see a gaggle of photographers, already poised, with their cameras in the optimal position to photograph the him as he is brought out in chains. It would seem that the police gave the press advance notice of this set piece arrest.
All of this is rather reminiscent of the case of Dominique Strauss Kahn. Many people in Europe were appalled by the way in which the police went out of the way to humiliate DSK by parading him in front of the press, before he had even had a chance to defend himself. as I said of the incident a couple of weeks back. I suggested at the time that the New York authorities ought to at least “wait until somebody has been proven guilty in a caught of law before inflicting gratuitous punishments upon them”.
Most would be willing to accept that the power of the police to seize and to hold unconvicted individuals, is a necessary evil – even if it does end up damaging those who turn out to be innocent. We might well expect those who are suspected of a crime to accompany the cops to a station. What is unnacceptable, is potentially innocent individuals being forced to participate in the police force’s street theatre. The cops like to stage such set piece arrests in order to burnish their reputations as crime fighting heroes. And unconvicted individuals are expected to play a humiliating part in the propaganda piece whether they wish to or not.
Nobody for a moment would suggest that the press be stopping from photographing arrests. The issue here is one of police conduct. Deliberately turning arrests into a spectacle by mustering photographers in advance, should, at the very least, be regarded as something other than best practice.
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