The latest fad for taking photographs with ministers at suspected crime scenes is cringeworthingly wrong. The Home Secretary has been at the vanguard but there are others. I understand what they are trying to do. The images flashed across the media imply (ironically) that the Conservatives are the party of law and order, tough on crime and determined to stand up for law abiding citizens.
It should be of concern to all of us on three counts.
Firstly, no matter how dispassionate you are, the image implies that the people having their collars felt are guilty. They may be, I don’t know at this stage and neither do any of us and it is very hard to unsee an image that is now lodged in your memory. Our system, as we are all too often told, is that people are innocent until proven guilty. The image of a politician, police and people strongly suggests that they are guilty before going to court.
Secondly, it is the police’s job to fight crime and apprehend criminals. The role of the politician is to set the laws that the police then apply. Politicians, for the reasons already given above, should steer well clear of the arrest process.
Thirdly, and perhaps most worryingly, the images show an unhealthy relationship between the politicians and the police. Operational information must be passed between law enforcement officers, the politicians and the media for them to arrive at the same point, unless of course it is all staged. If such collusion is going on at this level what else is going on that we can’t see?
Such arrangements also lead the police and politicians open to accusations of undue influence. If, for example, the police tip off a politician that someone they know is about to be arrested, it puts unbearable pressure on both parties to avoid influencing the outcome.
All in all, it is a bad practice and should be stopped. It won’t be until it’s novelty wears off however, but we should take such pictures with a large pinch of salt.
At least the photographer doesn’t ask the ministers to stand in that ridiculous power pose.