Archive for August 1st, 2008

August 1st, 2008

Beware, Terrorists!

Posted in The Job - Comment by 200

Perhaps it’s because I’m getting very close to being one of those ‘pain-in-the-arse retired coppers’ we all know that I find occasion to criticise my fellow officers. Or maybe because I’ve always been a reasonably laid-back kind of guy who doesn’t get too wound up about everything. I’d like to think it’s because I have a balanced view of things & can appreciate it from both the police perspective & the public’s.

Take the following photograph:

Terror Car

It’s something you see every day in thousands of streets throughout the UK. (OK some people would like to see many more of them in their street, granted). It’s a photo of a police car, it happens to be parked on a yellow line & is, in fact, parked at a bus stop.

Some people get awfully excited when they see police cars parked ‘illegally’. It is, of course, quite legal for a police car to park almost anywhere provided it is for emergency services related reasons. I guess people would get awfully upset if they were getting seven bells kicked out of them while a police officer drove round looking for an empty parking space.

The above shot was taken by David Gates, a 42-year-old resident of Portsmouth, on his mobile phone as he thought the car was parked illegally. The two officers – who had been dealing with a domestic nearby – came out & saw him. They then questioned him about why he was taking a photo of their car. He was told that the officers could question him under powers conferred by the Terrorism Act 2000 because he "could be a security risk".

It would be glib of me to say that a terrorist probably wouldn’t be standing in the middle of a Portsmouth bus stop taking photos of passing police cars on his mobile because most of us actually don’t really know what terrorists get up to in their spare time. But it does stretch the credibility of the police when we use legislation designed to stop people blowing us to smithereens to question people who wind us up by taking our photos. It’s no wonder there is so much trouble getting the 42-days detention through Parliament.

You’d have thought that the Hampshire Police might want to take the opportunity to defuse the issue, but no, to stretch credulity even further Hampshire Police spokesperson, Liz Hanlon denied the officers were overzealous by saying: "We have absolutely no idea what that photograph could be used for. We were not saying “you are a terrorist”. The picture could be a security risk because it shows the car registration and we don’t know if that could be used for any sinister purpose later on."

A picture of a police car is a security risk? You mean we drive these things up & down the roads of the nation & all this time people seeing the number plate has been a security risk?  Why hasn’t anyone told me?

Someone better tell all those people who’s hobby is taking photos of police cars, like this group or this or this or this. Let’s hope real terrorists don’t have video recorders while sitting at home watching Police, Camera Action!, Traffic Cops, Chopper Coppers, Police Stop! & just about every third programme on tele these days, & to think we give broadcasters permission to film & show police cars with their number plates still visible. I expect Liz Hanlon doesn’t have a television.

Superintendent Neil Sherrington, deputy commander for Portsmouth  said: ‘"Officers are given powers under the Terrorism Act to stop and search. The act states that "this power can only be used for the purposes of searching for articles of a kind which could be used in connection with terrorism, and may be exercised whether or not the constable has grounds for suspecting the presence of articles of that kind. It is therefore reasonable for the officer in this case to have made reference to the act and been suspicious about why the photograph of the vehicle had been taken."