Archive for December 3rd, 2009

December 3rd, 2009

On no, it’s the Met, again

Posted in The Job - Comment by 200

There have been a couple of stories this week about police misusing their powers  to stop & harass check photographers using legislation designed to thwart terrorism. The country’s photographers are up in arms about it. (funny, being up in arms over terrorism accusations).

A few days ago a photographer, who happens to work for the BBC, was stopped & questioned while taking photographs of the sunset over St Paul’s Cathedral. An officer is alleged to have used the grounds that he could have been taking recce photos for a terrorist mission. He appeared on Sunday’s Andrew Marr Show. This is not the first time, in fact, the photography press & forums are full of complaints about similar incidents up & down the country.

Photographers have been stopped, searched & even arrested & made to delete their photos by police officers whilst taking photos of the Christmas lights, buses & trains. The Independent highlights the issue in a major article today. Most of the complaints stem from the Met Police area which is understandable when you realise that 96% of all Section 44 Stop & Searches are carried out by the Met & British Transport Police.

It seems that the one common factor in all these cases is that the photographer in question has a big camera & lens. It seems that terrorists only use big cameras which make them look like professional photographers, they also draw attention to themselves by having lots of camera gear in their bags & a tripod. Meanwhile, everyone else with their little compact cameras which they can slip in a pocket or handbag & everyone with a mobile phone who are often standing next to all the potential terrorist suspects takign their own photos get completely ignored by the police.

I have to say that in my time I’ve not known any of my officers checking someone under terrorism legislation. I’ve certainly never sent any to a potential terror suspect. If we have had complaints about photographers it’s generally come from adults who don’t like people taking pictures near their children.

We did have a an incident earlier in the year where a man complained about someone taking photos of the children in the snow at a local park. An officer attended & apparently threatened the photographer with arrest unless he deleted the photos. This, I believe was wrong, the officer had no power to do so & despite what the PC world might like to think, it is not against the law to take photos of people in a public place, even if they are children. Officers sometimes try to appease people who complain when in fact they should be saying ‘if you don’t want your kids in his photos, take your kids elsewhere, he’s not breaking any laws’.

There are various conspiracy theories floating about. Comparisons with East Germany, 1984 & the Soviet Union are often banded about. Police State is often shouted. Arresting photographers, a great way to get even more people on the DNA database.  Whatever the truth is I can’t believe that the police in London really do suspect that most of their S44 searches are on potential terrorists.