Is it appropriate for police to comment on the character of convicted criminals?

Reading a news story today about a drunk driver who got jailed, I was reminded of something that sometimes bugs me. It’s when the police comment afterwards with their opinions about the offender. In this case, the police department involved issued the following statement:

"Deborah Hunt was lucky not to have killed someone or herself.
“What makes this more appalling is the lack of regard she has shown in terms of the consequences of her criminal actions that may have resulted in her own death or serious injury.”

Now, I don’t necessarily disagree with that, but to me the role of the police is solely to determine whether somebody is likely to have committed a crime, and if so apprehend them and hand them over to the courts for prosecution. It is not in the remit of the police to comment afterwards about how “appalling” their crime was. It seems unprofessional to me, for one thing. They should be dispassionate, concerned only with upholding the law. I don’t see why they need make any statement, but if they must it would be more appropriate to simply say “this person broke the law and was duly convicted.”

The thing is, police officers are people too. Crimes affect them just as much, if not more then most people, because they are usually the ones who have to see the aftermath of things like drink driving. They have to see that baby dead in the car seat. They have to see someone’s child wrapped around a tree, they have to see a whole family wiped out, because of one fool’s actions.

If a cop has emotionally detached themselves from these things, it’s a sign something is wrong.

<YODA>Media attention, opinionated remarks. A Jedi craves not these things.</YODA>

I think we have two different concepts at play here. One is the emotions of the cop, the other is the way the situation is presented by the reporter.

If anyone needs to tone down the emotion, it’s the newscasters. They fish for these types of judgement statements when they should really be digging for the simple truth.

I’ve always straddled the line on the emotionless law enforcement concept. I agree that police officers should not make statements to the public about their personal feelings on a case, but I also don’t think they should be implacable slabs of granite. To a certain degree, I want compassion and a desire to right wrongs from people tasked with protecting the public. I don’t feel that justice should be completely devoid of emotion, but at the same time it can so easily be colored by the passions of the officer.

To one extreme, you have people who could be too lenient because they let someone who was driving recklessly off the hook simply because the driver was late for a movie. On the other, you have officers who could beat someone to death because they found them near a scene where a heinous crime was committed. Temperance seems key to me.

I think your position is unreasonable. The police should not be obliged to whitewash a convicted criminal’s actions like that - and that’s what forbidding them from saying why their actions were bad amounts to. “This person broke the law” is something you say about jaywalkers, not drunk idiots that drive at 60 mph the wrong way down a freeway.