Swedish police to publicly identify suspects

Police in Skåne in southern Sweden will shortly begin publishing pictures of criminal suspects on the police website, a practice that may soon be adopted all over the country.

The pictures will be taken from surveillance cameras and the police hope that the general public will help investigate and identify criminals.

“It is common that people who commit crimes are captured on film. Now we will give people who have information about a crime the opportunity to help solve the crime,” Skåne police’s information director, Lars Förstell, told news agency TT.

But the initiative has attracted criticism from numerous quarters. The risk is not just that the police publish pictures of innocent people, but moreover that there are consequences for the ability of convicted criminals to rehabilitate themselves in society, according to professor of criminology at Stockholm University, Jerzy Sarnecki.

But his major criticism is the tendency for the police to acquire more and more power.

“We have a system that increasingly restricts fundamental freedoms and rights. It is in some ways taking small, small steps towards a police state that I am actually really concerned about,” Sarnecki said.

On Friday, Stockholm police also threw their support behind the initiative.

“I am really convinced that this model will become nationwide,” police spokesperson, Kjell Lindgren, told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.

“I can’t say when, but that it is coming is obvious. Before the end of this year we will certainly see more authorities publishing surveillance pictures. Whether or not Stockholm is one of them I dare not say,” he said.

Anne Ramberg, general secretary of the Swedish Bar Association (Advokatsamfundet), argues that innocent people may suffer anxiety as a result of this method. She writes publicly that the pictures are a further sign that more societal surveillance leads to “an insidious shifting of the boundaries”.

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