Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Working together?

The financial district of London partially immersed in clouds, as seen from Greenwich Cemetery. © Magnus Andersson

There was one very significant development over the weekend here in the UK after chief constable Andy Trotter declared that photography was no longer to be seen as a threat by police officers. Both amateur and professional photographers should now be allowed to enjoy the hobby/work without being hassled by real police and/or plastic police (Police Community Support Officers).

And then this happened today. Photographer Grant Smith was first questioned by security guards (who have no rights to do so) on why he is taking pictures of a building. It should be noted that Smith is an experienced London architectural photographer. The security guards call the police and shortly three police cars and one police van are on the scene, with up to six armed police officers. WTF?

The problem seems to lie with ground staff's training: #1 why would the police operator who took the call decide to dispatch four patrols to a photographer? #2 why would the officers at the scene think that this was a terrorist at work? #3 why did the security guards get involved at all? Smith was photographing the building next to theirs.

You might argue that a crime was potentially prevented here, but I would argue that a crime was potentially enabled here; four police units and two security guards allowed themselves to be drawn into a perfectly peaceful and non-violent past time of most UK citizens, i.e. photography. Meanwhile genuine criminals went about their normal criminal routines, safe in the knowledge that the officers on the ground waste their time pursuing law abiding, tax paying citizens. These officers don't have a clue about how to interpret the laws in place.

Here's the official line from the Met Police. Their slogan is: 'Working together for a safer London'.

Great piece from Henry Porter in The Guardian.

Tomorrow's BJP piece.

And perhaps a silver lining to all the media exposure these events have been given in the last few days?

I would like to know the exact figure on stopped photographers versus discovered terrorists. I suspect it stands at umpteenth vs. none. I think the Met slogan should read 'Working to alienate the population of London, especially anyone with a camera'.

Even more scary, today it was announced that the British Transport Police will be allowed to carry 50,000volt taser guns. For those that remember, the police officer that illegally confiscated my camera was also from the British Transport Police. And next time he will be armed with a taser gun as well? Lordy.


Polskey said...

It's just ridiculous, if you were a terrorist you are not going to waltz up there with a DSLR anyway, you would probably discreetly whip out your 8MP camera phone and get loads of pictures inside and outside the building as I did un-confronted in Canary Wharf recently.

Magster said...

canary wharf? you really do take your life into your own hands...