A Pennsylvania state police leader attempted to deflect criticism this week after a group of fellow officers posed for a photo with escaped murderer Danelo Cavalcante just moments after his capture.
Cavalcante was at the epicenter of a highly publicized, nearly two-week manhunt that ended Wednesday. The 34-year-old was apprehended in a wooded area of South Coventry Township, Pennsylvania, after escaping from Chester County Prison on Aug. 31.
News of Cavalcante’s capture understandably came as a relief to area residents. However, many of the arresting officers drew ire online after being seen gathering around the handcuffed fugitive as another cop snapped a photo on his phone.
Footage of the eyebrow-raising moment was captured for posterity by CBS News and other outlets.
“Every one of those officers should be reprimanded for unprofessionalism,” one person tweeted.
Added another: “I don’t care how awful the crime is—this photo is in poor taste.”
At a Wednesday news conference, Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said he wasn’t fazed and urged the media to focus on his team being able to capture Cavalcante successfully.
“Those men and women worked amazingly hard through some very trying circumstances,” Bivens said, according to NBC Philadelphia. “They’re proud of their work. I’m not bothered at all by the fact that they took a photograph with him in custody.”
He went on to note: “Again, they’re proud of their work. They kept the community safe. I say thanks to them and good job.”
Whether legal experts share that stance, however, is questionable.
“From a policing ethics point of view, a police officer taking a picture on the street and putting it on social media or doing it as a celebratory or retaliatory thing is not OK,” Adam Scott Wandt, an associate professor of public policy at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told The Associated Press. “As an attorney, it is an evidentiary problem being created here too. It’s a dangerous practice for a police officer to create evidence on a scene and not properly turn it over to the prosecutor.”
Last month, Cavalcante received a life sentence after being convicted of the 2021 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Deborah Brandao. He is also the lead suspect in a 2017 murder in his native Brazil.