Greece Sends Thugs on Their Merry Way North
Extreme in Germany, Common Sense Elsewhere

Unblocked Photos, Video Surveillance, and Other Concessions to Reality

There are any number of German privacy laws that restrict the ability of German police to solve crimes. Cops are not allowed to use DNA to create profiles of criminal suspects. Major political parties continue to resist putting surveillance cameras in public places, or upgrading the ludicrously outdated ones that are already there. 

And police often wait days or months to publish photos of criminal suspects. Even when they do, the photos are often blurred out of concerns for "privacy".

Which leads to what the rest of the world sees as a ludicrous charade: a manhunt for a dangerous wanted terrorism suspect in which the public is not allowed to see the man's face.

This is the photos of Anis Amri, the Tunisian asylum-seeker suspect in the Breitscheidplatz Christmas market attack, as show on the front page of the German Bild tabloid:

Bildredc

And here is the photo of the suspect as shown on the Daily Mirror tabloid site:

Fff

As the Mirror notes, with barely-disguised incredulity:

Despite an unfolding international manhunt the first pictures of him released in Germany have his eyes deliberately covered, thought to be because of strict privacy laws there. MailOnline has uncovered unblurred images.

In case you were wondering, the website of the Daily Mirror can be accessed from anywhere inside Germany, so the unblurred photo is just a mouse-click away.

When Germans bother to ask why these photos are so often blurred, or not even released in the first place, authorities mumble something about 'privacy concerns' and 'data protection'. The restrictions have just been around forever, they're taken so much for granted that nobody seems to actually understand why they still exist. It's like asking why pretzels are folded the way they are. Who knows? We've always just done it that way.

If pressed, Green Party members (the most vociferous opponents of updating police laws) will probably say something like "Well, if you release the entire photo, the man will be marked for life. Maybe some vigilante will try to attack him." Yet there is no proof that these things happen with regularity in other countries which do release unedited photos. Of course there might be isolated cases, but by and large, people in those countries -- i.e. the rest of the world -- understand that suspects are just suspects, and that it's wrong and illegal to take the law into your own hands. And that the public interest in apprehending dangerous violent criminals also has to be taken into account, and is very high.

Allow me to make another one of my predictions: most of these outdated policies will crumble within the next few years. The moderate, cautious, kid-gloves approach to law enforcement in Germany was designed for a bygone era, in which Germany was much more homogeneous and even criminals shared a language, culture, and set of expectations with the society in which they lived.

When Dieter the local bartender robs a bank with a plastic pistol because he lost his job and can't pay his mortgage, he's probably going to turn himself in and confess ('I just drank a bottle of Schnaps and lost control.'). Everyone knows Dieter and his family, Dieter showed he understands what he did was wrong, nobody was hurt, and Dieter will not only promise to repay the money, he will actually do so. Because Dieter is German, and has roots in the community, and can anticipate regaining some place in it if he shows genuine remorse. The same even goes for Dieter beating his wife after a violent argument. Of course that crime is much more serious, and Dieter will go to prison, but the crime is still comprehensible and (conditionally) forgivable within the pattern of assumptions and practices that make up German culture. 

The sort of crime happening in Germany has changed completely. The laws will need to change as well. There will still be vigorous rear-guard resistance to these changes, but it will eventually fail. As Herbert Stein once said, if something can't go on forever, it will stop.

Comments