An Open Letter To Police Officers Who Call Suspects The ‘Bad Guys’
I've been watching true crime shows lately and many of the police officers, investigators, detectives, and other law enforcement officials have been featured in each of the cases. Not all, but many of them, refer to suspects and defendants as 'bad guys.'
It makes me cringe when they do. It's prejudicial and manipulative. Yes, many of the people called suspects and defendants have in fact committed crimes and possibly done bad things. But many haven't. One thing that has been proven time and time again is that there are numerous cases of people being wrongly accused and often, wrongly convicted of crimes.
A person accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty,
"Presumption of innocence" serves to emphasize that the prosecution has the obligation to prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt (or some other level of proof depending on the criminal justice system) and that the accused bears no burden of proof.
Calling a person who has not set foot in a courtroom yet a 'bad guy,' automatically labels a possibly innocent person as a criminal. A law enforcement officer, contrary to how many people feel, is not supposed to be 'judge, jury, and executioner'. A police officer is misusing their authority to potentially damage a suspect or defendant's reputation and image when he or she uses a term like 'bad guy' to label someone who hasn't been allowed to have their day in court.
The solution is simple, just refer to a person accused of a crime as a person of interest, suspect, or defendant. There is already some guilt implied in those terms, but they are not nearly as damaging as using the term 'bad guy'. All I am is asking is that police refrain from using manipulative terms like 'bad guy' to influence the perception of a person before due process, which they are entitled to in New York and this country.