Should these photos have been released of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by G-P, Aug 15, 2013.

  1. G-P

    G-P Administrator Staff Member

    Last month Sgt. Sean Murphy, a tactical photographer with the Massachusetts State Police released photos of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to Boston Magazine in response to the Rolling Stone pictures depicting him as a rock n roll outlaw as opposed to a terrorist. He said these pictures depict "the real Boston bomber. Not someone fluffed and buffed for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine."
    Sgt Murphy was placed on restricted duty in July after he released to the news media and today was being transferred to the state police barracks in Athol to work midnight patrol on Route 2...which many would suggest is not exactly a promotion for a 25 year vet.
    What is your take on whether or not he should have released the photos?
     
  2. Rolling Stone was doing its job by attracting attention and stirring up a publicity-generating controversy, seemingly within the law and within whatever legal guidelines it's supposed to follow. The tactical police photographer seems to have ignored the policy and guidelines (possibly willfully flouting them) of his employment and is most likely being punished for improperly using photos which he may have taken but were not his property. Having said that, it's good the latter pictures are now out there. If they were going to be released, it should have been the decision of police administration based on sound policy guidelines for releasing such photos.
    IMO, the Philosophy of Photography issue here is that photos give us more perspective than truth. If a picture of a person (portrait or otherwise) does provide some sort of truth (and many do), it can sometimes be the truth only of a given moment or micro-expression which shouldn't necessarily be extrapolated to say something about the core of the person being photographed. Sometimes pictures of people do provide a more well-rounded core view but often not.
    So, viewers led to believe that the guy was some sort of rock star upon seeing the Rolling Stone photos have to take some responsibility for the way they view photos . . . and for being taken in by magazines providing them. We shouldn't be terribly shocked when Hollywood-perfect movie stars are found on their verandas in less-than-flattering guises. We would do well to assume they generally look differently from the way they're portrayed in pictures. Same for evil demons.
    It's hard to reduce how someone looks to one or two images caught on film, possibly even harder to reduce the person him or herself to one or two looks caught on film.
    A simple "rock star" or "terrorist" doesn't really begin to get to the heart of the matter.
     
  3. I completely understand the officer's frustration and motivation. But providing evidence (which is what those images are) outside of the normal channels of communication is considered a bad move for a lot of reasons. Not that the prosecution of this murderer is likely to be impacted in a significant way by what Murphy did, but anything that erodes the credibility of the side that's working the case is a bad move. There were other ways to express frustration with the at-first-glance perception of RS celebrating (or at least giving undue attention to) one of the killer brothers.

    That said, I don't think that giving a 25-year vet a crap detail for a while is the best way to handle this specific case.
     

  4. "But providing evidence (which is what those images are) outside of the normal channels of communication is considered a bad move for a lot of reasons."
    It might even be illegal.
    "That said, I don't think that giving a 25-year vet a crap detail for a while is the best way to handle this specific case."
    Strictly speaking, Matt, wouldn't you say he got off lightly for doing something that was way above his pay grade?

    What he did was basically to protest a magazine's editorial decision that had nothing to do with the legal system applying the law or delivering justice. It was an abuse of position for the purposes of making known his self-serving feelings. Such poor judgment clearly indicates he can not be trusted with a responsible position.
     
  5. I should have been clearer, Michael. The re-assignment method of penalizing the officer seems to me to be far too casual and capricious a way to handle what he did. He messed with the prosecution's ability to do their job. The response should have been far more formal (and, I think, serious) than making his on-duty time less pleasant, geographically and time-of-day-wise.
     
  6. Ahh.. I misinterpreted your post, Matt. :)
    Taking this further, putting him on midnight patrol duty might even be dangerous.
    He has demonstrated his inability to conduct himself objectively and will apply his own sense of justice to a situation independent of the law. This is not the type of cop we want on the streets.
     
  7. Sgt. Murphy according to the Boston Globe is back on patrol duty and, I think, he is no longer a Sgt. From all I have read locally Murphy is a good man who made a mistake in judgment. Lot's of good men and women make mistakes in judgment. I have seen that in my own military career and was not always right myself. You know, Michael, what is said about casting the first stone. I hope he redeems himself. He is probably a much better man than some of those politicians who have some say about running the State government. The trooper had feelings for his fellow officers and those who died. He cared. We saw that often in the military. I care about all those I served with who are no longer here. When you are as close to the action as he was it is very difficult not to be aroused and offended by that portrayal on the Stone cover. Remember, he was there. From what I read those in the state police value him for his contributions and record. I don't think he needs be thrown out with the days' trash. He is redeemable. Remember there was a bombing that killed and maimed people, Whitey Bulger has just been convicted of eleven murders. There is a cast over the alleged misfeasance by the FBI surrounding the Bulger case. Murphy has played on right team for his career. Stack up what he did against the real crimes. I forgot to mention what is going on with an ex-New England Patriot. Have some perspective give him some slack for his dedicated service to the people of Massachusetts. I don't think his feelings were self-serving. They were real in my mind. I think he was in pain.
    '
     
  8. The only potential issue with these photographs I see has to do with confidentiality. While I still was working for a regulatory enforcement agency, I took some photographs of a joint operation involving both staff from my agency and a local police agency. Before shooting, I asked the officer in charge whether there was any problem with my photographing the police personnel working the detail. He was very specific in asking me not to photograph the personnel who work under cover; they were unformed quite differently than the rest. His concern was that such photographs made publicly available might jeopardize the safety of these officers while working under cover.
    Quite frankly, regardless of the legitimacy of this issue, I see it as involving policy only. I don't see a philosophical issue at all.
     
  9. Dick, my remarks might have come across as overly critical, however;
    Law enforcement personnel must have the trust and confidence of the people they serve, and conduct that violates their duty and oath of office will only erode that trust and confidence even if the act was in parallel with popular sentiment.
    They take an oath because they are held to a higher standard than the rest of us for our trust in their ability to function under stress and to obey command. While we're indeed all people with feelings, common civilians are free to express personal opinions or even act on them but law enforcement personnel must refrain from it in the same way that a judge must remain impartial in applying the law.
    At a personal level I do feel sympathy for him, and I concur that he's redeemable if indeed your description of him is accurate.
     
  10. Maybe he was willing to take the hit on his career and still do what he believed was the right thing. Rare, but sometimes still happens.
     
  11. Quite frankly, regardless of the legitimacy of this issue, I see it as involving policy only. I don't see a philosophical issue at all.​
    +1
     
  12. I think that the issues at the heart of the matter have to do with the application of judgment to remedy a loss of perspective. I saw and read about the strong reaction to the Rolling Stone cover from people who interpreted it as some sort of defense or apology for what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is alleged to have done. This represents a narrowing of focus and perspective in my opinion. Things are never as simple as they seem on the surface. It is impossible for one photograph of a person to tell the whole story of his life, yet many people appeared to believe that, in the hands of Rolling Stone, this one did exactly that. They wanted to tell the rest of us that there is no way to see a person suspected (and likely guilty) of committing a terrible bomb attack as an ordinary person portrayed from a photographer's studio perspective. The picture conveyed to them the notion that there might be a possibility of some redeeming quality or even glamour in Tsarnaev. The actual article didn't say that, but the picture was enough.

    It is instructive to see the suffering and fear a suspect might experience in the face of a tactical police team as they apprehend him. Photographs give us a herky-jerky series of impressions of what a person looks like in various surroundings, but not a description of who he is. Can you study enough about a person's footprints to tell what sort of hat he prefers?

    Neither the Rolling Stone cover nor the photo of the suspect's apprehension helps us decide Tsarnaev's actual degree of culpability and what is to be done about it. This is what our judicial system does. It really isn't up to me to figure this out. It isn't up to nearly all of the people who created the flap about the Rolling Stone cover to figure it out either.

    Someone somewhere is going to participate in the case in an official capacity as an officer of the court or a member of the pool of prospective jurors who will hear the case. These are the only people who matter in determining Tsarnaev's fate.

    I think Sgt. Murphy made an error in judgment by taking on himself the task of correcting a public reaction he thought existed to a photograph in a magazine. It was not his job. Certain media outlets treated the matter as evidence of a widespread conspiracy from leftists, Democrats and liberals to spread disinformation throughout our society. This is where the loss of perspective comes into play. I have no idea what Sgt. Murphy's political views are, but it does appear to me that he lost his faith in his role as an officer of the court himself.

    The Rolling Stone cover cannot show enough redeeming quality or glamour in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to help him face his responsibility for his crimes if the Court finds him guilty. Nor can it save him from the hard times in store for him as he goes through the process. A police sergeant with 25 years of experience of all people should have seen this often enough to think of it as just another day on the job. He's lucky to still be in law enforcement.
     
  13. I think that the issues at the heart of the matter have to do with the application of judgment to remedy a loss of perspective. I saw and read about the strong reaction to the Rolling Stone cover from people who interpreted it as some sort of defense or apology for what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is alleged to have done. This represents a narrowing of focus and perspective in my opinion. Things are never as simple as they seem on the surface. It is impossible for one photograph of a person to tell the whole story of his life, yet many people appeared to believe that, in the hands of Rolling Stone, this one did exactly that. They wanted to tell the rest of us that there is no way to see a person suspected (and likely guilty) of committing a terrible bomb attack as an ordinary person portrayed from a photographer's studio perspective. The picture conveyed to them the notion that there might be a possibility of some redeeming quality or even glamour in Tsarnaev. The actual article didn't say that, but the picture was enough.

    It is instructive to see the suffering and fear a suspect might experience in the face of a tactical police team as they apprehend him. Photographs give us a herky-jerky series of impressions of what a person looks like in various surroundings, but not a description of who he is. Can you study enough about a person's footprints to tell what sort of hat he prefers?

    Neither the Rolling Stone cover nor the photo of the suspect's apprehension helps us decide Tsarnaev's actual degree of culpability and what is to be done about it. This is what our judicial system does. It really isn't up to me to figure this out. It isn't up to nearly all of the people who created the flap about the Rolling Stone cover to figure it out either.

    Someone somewhere is going to participate in the case in an official capacity as an officer of the court or a member of the pool of prospective jurors who will hear the case. These are the only people who matter in determining Tsarnaev's fate.

    I think Sgt. Murphy made an error in judgment by taking on himself the task of correcting a public reaction he thought existed to a photograph in a magazine. It was not his job. Certain media outlets treated the matter as evidence of a widespread conspiracy from leftists, Democrats and liberals to spread disinformation throughout our society. This is where the loss of perspective comes into play. I have no idea what Sgt. Murphy's political views are, but it does appear to me that he lost his faith in his role as an officer of the court himself.

    The Rolling Stone cover cannot show enough redeeming quality or glamour in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to help him face his responsibility for his crimes if the Court finds him guilty. Nor can it save him from the hard times in store for him as he goes through the process. A police sergeant with 25 years of experience of all people should have seen this often enough to think of it as just another day on the job. He's lucky to still be in law enforcement.
     
  14. I'm going to play devils advocate here. I think they should have been released for the people. I would also like to see some of the videos released of the chase and shoot out to a point ( not showing any death shots). there's alot of conspiracy people out there and some people just want to know the truth and if they see its them on a police video throwing bombs and shooting at the police it would ease the feeling to some that they did get he right people. Also i can't see how showing the public some of the evidence is going to hurt the prosecution in any way.
     

Share This Page