Anti-crime groups, I’m with you in your pursuit of justice. Police officials in desperate need of pogi points, I’m with you too. But when it comes to how police present crime suspects to the media, like it’s already a case solved, I’m with the innocent.

And who’s the “innocent?” Every one of those lined up before the cameras, handcuffed, wearing an orange shirt with the word “detainee” on it, and with a piece of cardboard hanging around his neck bearing his name and his supposed crime. Why not get it done with by including the names of the suspect’s family and friends as well? Because that’s practically what the police are doing, shaming an entire network of friends and lovers even before any case could be filed in court.

Mr. Police Superintendent tells media: We now have suspects, plenty of them. Case closed.

And while we’re at it, this is another strange thing about police investigations. They consider a case closed once they have suspects. Case closed at the police level, now it’s for the court to close it at the judiciary level? Like that? Should the barangay tanods who chased the suspects out of their Tanduay-laden breath declare the case closed at their level too?

Well, for your information, I was the concerned citizen who reported the crime to the barangay captain. I should consider the case solved at my own, very personal, private, confidential, hush-hush, clandestine, domestic, beware-of-dogs, bachelor-for-life level too.

It’s one and the same freaking case, for Christ’s sake, from the commission of the crime, to the arrest of suspects, to the filing of charges in court, to the murder of the eyewitness, to the escape from prison of the guilty party. It can only be solved once and by everybody together doing a group hug.

Going back, I said there’s something wrong with the way the police present suspects to the media. For one, isn’t there any police officer with a better handwriting these days? We understand not all of us know what a computer printout is, especially if we live in typewriter-era police dugouts. But the police can at least use clean cartolina instead of cardboard ripped from a commercial box that says “Recommended by Dentists” in one corner.

For example, if my family has got me arrested for spending my entire month’s salary on beer, I wouldn’t want to appear in the next day’s papers with this cardboard dangling around my neck that says, “Lorenzo P. Niñal, Denounced by Own Family for Drunkenness, One Store Has it All.”

I mean, sir, I know you’re not judging me guilty before the media (although that’s what you’re doing), but this treatment I’m getting says otherwise. Look, you didn’t even give me the chance to clean up this bloody face I got here after your overzealous tanods smashed it against the hood of the patrol car. Promise, I will tell the media I tripped in the CR back at my cell and crashed my face against the toilet bowl, but at least let me look cute on camera for my ailing mother.

What do you want to accomplish from all this, really? “Hey, dear public, I’m your police officer, I’ve smashed the hell out of this hobo here, sent two and a half of his front teeth flying, broken his nose, dislocated his jaw, ripped his skull open, plucked his eyes for dinner, so that you will all live in peace.”

But he is still a suspect, Mr. Police Officer, technically an innocent man. “Yeah, just imagine what I’ll do to a technically guilty man.”

You see, there’s actually no arguing with the police. The best thing a suspect can do in this situation is hold his head up before the camera like he’s really innocent then say ‘cheese.’

SUN.STAR CEBU, OCT. 21, 2008