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back to article Police chief: Yes, my plods sometimes forget photo laws

The Metropolitan Police Force cannot be guaranteed to abide by the law when it comes to allowing the public their right to take photographs. That was the startling admission made last week by Met Police Commissioner John Stephenson under sharp questioning from Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member Dee Doocey during a Police …

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Plod's out of control

Somebody should remind this bunch of Gene Hunts that they work for us.

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9 principles

I'm told that Sir Robert Peel developed the "9 principles of policing" in the 1800s - perhaps it is time that we remind the police of these principles, and that we start to hold them to account.

http://www.civitas.org.uk/pubs/policeNine.php

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The El Reg alternative

Sounds about right.

But that's always going to be a problem with any sort of job. There will always be those who will abuse a position of power. The important thing is that the employer admits that it happens, and comes down hard on those who do it. It doesn't matter if it's the police, hospital, town hall or supermarket. It's a form of corruption.

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Unhappy

Dangerous talk...

If the police start clamping down on corruption within the force, where might they look next for corruption? No governing body can afford a police force that tries to clean up corruption. If this ever becomes the case, the laws with change rapidly so as to allow the corruption in question.

Same as it always was.

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Not really the problem

I'm not nearly so worried about police officers not being aware of the law on photography as I am about them not being aware of the law on beating innocent passers-by over the head moments before, entirely coincidentally, that passer-by drops dead.

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Anonymous Coward

stupid illigitimi dressed in black

Justice? What Justice?

England and the English are a joke.

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Anonymous Coward

Commentard

Has someone from the daily mail plugged the Twat-O-Tron into el regs forum?

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Flame

Let's apply the famous "if they really meant it" test here ....

If they really meant it ...

Officers would be personally liable for damages, if found to have acted unlawfully

If they really meant it ...

It would be a criminal offence for a policeman to attempt to criminalise innocent behaviour

draw your own conclusions

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Unhappy

Not just a British problem...

This is becoming a more frequent problem here in Yankville as well.

Coppers who don't know the law; surveillance cameras popping up everywhere; civil liberties being trampled upon left and right; government completely out of control. Yep, we are becoming more and more like the mother country each day.

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Also Canada

Also a problem here in Canada. The police here are well trained, but they just don't care that they are breaking the law.

And if they break the law because they lost their temper (a common cause for criminals of all kinds to break the law) their co-workers who are present cover up for them, become accomplices or accessories, and co-workers assigned to any investigation botch it, committing obstruction of justice.

And our judges and politicians do nothing, because they depend on police to protect them.

It seems to me freedom and democracy are doomed.

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Coat

Cock up or conspiracy ?

I vote for cock up every time - your average plod hasn't got the wits to collude in something and like all lies, it requires you to remember what lies you told to whom. Your average plod in London can' walk and talk and leave the thinking to senior officers.

Its just old old fashioned incompetence of the type to which we have grown accustomed over the years. Tell them something new, they forget something they were told earlier.

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Incompetence is no excuse

As a police officer it is your job to know. If you do not know, you ask your superior. It is as simple as that. You do not go around acting like a thug stating "facts" of which you are unsure. If you truly believe you don't need to be enforcing any particular law to shove innocent people around without any other extenuating circumstance then you should not be in the force. It's common sense and it transcends any defence of incompetence.

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A selective memory is a wonderful thing

You remember all the good times and forget all the bad one. Summers were warm and sunny, the snow was crisp - never slushy. Birds sang joyfully and the local bobby was a happy and fair person.

On the other hand, we tend to remember things we like. Things that give us status, things that empower us. So when we're told to treat every member of the public as if they were a terrorist and to investigate every suspicious activity we imprint such information with glee. The power this gives us is immense. We can stop, search, question. We demand respect or we lock you up - sorry, ask you politely to assist in our inquiries ... or get tazered for your insubordination.

However when we're told that maybe, just possibly, that person with a camera is simply pursuing a harmless hobby, or photographing a curiosity we tend to prefer to remember the days when we could and did act like Bodie and Doyle - or Arnie (depending on the haircut): crush liberties first, ask questions later - after all, you can't be too careful. So, just like you can't teach old dogs new tricks, we've still got a way to go before the excesses of the past can be rehabilitated back into normal policing - back to the memories of that fair and happy constable, now wth a stab-proof vest.

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@Pete 2

My thoughts exactly. So many powers have been bestowed upon the police in recent years that undermine the burden of proof, assumption of innocence, and general freedoms of your average citizen that it was only a matter of time until the average copper thinks they're Judge Dredd.

In general they used to be, and in the main doubtless still are, pleasant to deal with provided you don't act like an utter cock - and I have witnessed a few amusing "why are you doing this to me" incidents after behaviour where I'd have happily slapped the issuer. However you do get that inkling with quite a few of them that it wouldn't take much for the line to be crossed from Dickson of Dock Green to Judge Dredd. The ones that make the headlines are obviously just total wankers to begin with that get off on the power and should have been weeded out in selection - perhaps so few want to do the job these days that only tossers apply.

Question is who starting losing respect for whom first?

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you think that's bad?-

Watch our Aussie gov does it here. Yap, we copied this and out done it herre

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thieving gits

Lets get it right - they are stealing high end DSLR's from folks they can con into handing over thier goodies under the "terrorist laws". If they know the law, and stand thier ground then they call in the big boys with the metal truncheons. The reality is that the Met can assault anyone they like.

The one good thing is that more and more tourists are realising this.

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FAIL

Look, I know verbal communication is sometimes not as polished as written....

....but can anyone tell me what the hell he is blathering on about?

"And I admit, I could not be confident at that time, because they were happening, and it was a matter occasionally of morning despair of what we were doing on occasions around it."

GJC

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WTF?

Re: can anyone tell me what the hell he is blathering on about?

Nope, sorry.

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I think...

We have just discovered amanfrommars' true identity!

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Grenade

if he can't or won't communicate clearly, sack him

You're right, if that is his idea of clear communication he is part of the reason his employees are the criminal act of stealing cameras and extorting tourists.

If the police chief can't or won't communicate clearly, sack him.

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translation

"This did happen a lot. I couldn't be sure the people working for me weren't constantly messing up. It often ruined breakfast."

Being a poor, parenthetical, public speaker isn't why he should be sacked. Not being able to control his employees is.

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WTF?

He speaketh in tongues.

That officer talks in such wordy doublespeak that even the great William Archibald Spooner would have trouble understanding him. No wonder the rest of the force is confused. Or perhaps that is the general idea.

Can we have a Boris the buffoon icon?

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No Boris!

We need Professor Stanley Unwin instead.

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Well just dig him up...

No problode.

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Big Brother

Political Militia

"They suggest that a small minority of officers see the law as being "what they say it is", and these officers are quite prepared to take their chances, on the basis that the number of times they will be caught out by being recorded is likely to be few and far between."

And even when they get filmed assaulting or murdering innocent members of the public they are get off. Do we have any respect of faith in our police force? No, none. When police officers step out of line they need the book throwing at them, they should be punished at least as hard as members of the public. Closing ranks and covering up is standard behaviour for the police.

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Re:Political Militia

"Closing ranks and covering up is standard behaviour for the police."

Then they wonder why nobody comes forward to help them. They need to learn that respect is a two-way street and that it is earned and not given away/assumed.

On similar lines when was the last time an unlawful police shooting was ever properly prosecuted rather than excused with "it's a difficult job"?

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Anonymous Coward

check this out

http://yourfreedom.hmg.gov.uk/restoring-civil-liberties/misrepresenting-the-law-by-police-officer-a-new-offence/idea-view

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Good post.

Make misrepresenting the law by Police Officer an offence.

Police are trained and given written guidance in the law, and they can at any time consult a lawyer over the radio, and most officers do this. However, a significant minority is essentially 'inventing' the laws as they see fit to the current situation with no legal basis.

Additionally, it is not a defence for a citizen not to know the law - why should it be to the Police?

Why the contribution is important

This page is about restoring civil liberties. However, even with the best laws in place, these may still be infringed on when the Police Officer 'invents' new or misuses an existing law to stop the person from legal activities. In cases where wrongful arrest has been made, the act committed by the Policeman may be punished by prosecution; however, where no arrest was made, personal freedoms have been infringed and there is no usable legal recourse. It is therefore important to, as a part of process to restore civil liberties, introduce this or similar offence.

Some examples of why this law is necessary:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQucfv0slOE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfQrDK9YHas

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znQ1Amd0cRE

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Stop

When a policeman can get away with pushing

and causing the death on an innocent individual in the street, or shooting some innocent electrician in the head six times in front of a packed train. Or running a student in Coventry down and not even stopping to help

Then what's the big deal with pushing a few spotty photographers around...

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Pint

It is a big deal because acceptance of threatening and extorting photographers is where it starts

It is a big deal because acceptance of threatening and extorting photographers is where it starts

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WTF?

You complete f**king dick!

Joke or not, you are a complete f**king prat and a perfect example of why this country is slowly going round the U-bend.

When we simply turn a blind eye to a few out-of-line coppers "pushing a few spotty photographers around", then we lose what little freedoms we have.

So after all the dangerous "terrorist" photgraphers have been removed from the streets, what next? I know lets pick up kids, they are simply trainee terrorists and trouble makers, so what if a few die in custody, no biggy. Next let's teach a few women to stop wandering the street at night on their own, "learn 'em good and proper".

Perhaps if you opened your tiny little mind one iota and took in the wider world, you would learn there are places in the world where the police are feared more than any criminal gangs. In a lot of case the local criminals work hand-in-hand with the local coppers to get what they want. Police brutality against innocent men, women and children is endemic and "accepted" as the norm in some places.

Just f**k off back under your stone and pray you never get picked up by some bored coppers looking for an easy nick!

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Stop

You forgot

The dangerous Irishman armed with a shotgun shot dead by armed police that turned out to be a Scot with a heart condition with a table leg in a bag.

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Heart

Don't worry Donkey

I realise your /Sarc commet tag was on as i was going to make a similar comment.

Seems more and more mail readers are signing up round here or could just be people drinking and commenting which can be as bad as drinking and txting.

sarc

I say let them do what they want there the police and are accountable to know one.

/sarc

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Learn to read and understand context

"pushing a few spotty photographers around"

The Police in this country are getting away with killing people in broad daylight and on TV. I personally think we are much further around along the road to a police state than worrying about pushing a few photographers around. Not that abusing photographers should be tolerated. It is their state given right to record what they see but…...

Let's weigh it up. 1 person being assaulted on live on TV allegedly causing his death and broadcast around the world. No criminal prosecutions as the CPS couldn't be sure of a conviction. Quite a few Policemen running around thinking they are Robocop. It's obvious why the police think they can push Photographers around. Well if I can KILL somebody live on TV and get away with it then pushing some kid around is unlikely to cause me too much trouble.

If we could address the over zealous policeman picking on the kid that would be good so we can carry on taking pictures of policemen killing people in the street. Ahh enjoy your freedom confident in the knowledge if a policemen decides to shoot you in the head six times somebody will be able to photograph it for posterity.

Believe it or not I do agree with you but I cannot understand why people are getting more upset about a photographer getting harassed in the street to somebody being killed! I guess it's all a matter of perspective.

Or maybe I'm just being trolled?

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Over the top?

Just a thought but perhaps 'The Register' is overreacting to these issues? The Police do a fair job in difficult circumstances most of the time. Photography can cause all sorts of problems, and presumably raises difficulties for the Policeman on the beat.

Just thinking this one through the average copper encounters somebody taking photos for all he knows they could be a terrorist gathering intelligence for an atrocity, they may be a paedophile trying to get snaps, etc. what is the poor fellow supposed to do? On a personal level I have seen photographers taking illicit 'up skirt' shots, clearly doing girl on girl photography, and all sorts of other intrusive photography. Not being a policeman, nor having any legal background, all I could do is just carry on walking.

Just to emphasise the problem last night I watched 'Katie Price Happy Ever After' ** and saw the true evil of unexpurgated photography. Just wondering if just maybe the police should get some understanding here regarding their dealings with these situations?

** Technically I watched 'Katie Price Happy Ever After' but being a bit more accurate my girlfriend stuck it on the telly and then refused to turn the telly, errm either over or off. But as luck would have it I did see the section (i.e. it must have been loud enough to wake me up) where all the photographers were scrambling to get photographs of the unfortuneate Katie.

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FAIL

The daily mail called, they want their excuses back

And how as a law abiding citizen can I not be sure that the person in the high viz jacket and nipple helmet won't batter the shiut out of me for being *near* something they don't like.

The whole "potential terrorist or paedophile" argument is as idiotic as the "my kid was nekkid on streetview, what about the pedos" story and talking of Streetview, that's a much better resource than a couple of snaps from ground level. Especially when the snaps are bing taken by a uniformed schoolchild.

Yes, they do a difficult job and yes, the public by and large think they're a bunch of cunts. OTOH, they don't do anything to improve my perception of them.

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Re: Over the top?

"On a personal level I have seen photographers taking illicit 'up skirt' shots,"

With DSLRs? Talk sense!

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FAIL

WTF?

"Just a thought but perhaps 'The Register' is overreacting to these issues? The Police do a fair job in difficult circumstances most of the time. Photography can cause all sorts of problems, and presumably raises difficulties for the Policeman on the beat."

Exactly what is difficult about the circumstances when you walk passed someone pointing a camera at nelsons column for instance? Photography only causes problems when you point a camera at a person who doesn't want it pointed at them, and how often do the police come across that, except for celebs?

One day I hope the police stop you in your car and arrest you've because you've got a sticker in your window. Of course they won't be sure if its illegal or not, but better safe than sorry.

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FAIL

And with the statement..

"Just to emphasise the problem last night I watched 'Katie Price Happy Ever After'

You just lost all credibility in every aspect of what you said.

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A response or two

@Lottie

If it helps allay your fears I have had a number of dealings with the Police both because I have called them, and because of misdemeanours on my part. If my experience is anything to go by at no time was I battered to a pulp. My perception of the Police is mixed, but is not that they are a bunch of c***s.

@Code Monkey

A friend and I observed a gentlemen taking photographs in the park just outside my work. It was my friend who pointed out that the gentleman concerned was using a telephoto lens, and apparently taking close up photos of the rose bushes in the park.

Again my friend told me that this is the wrong sort of lens for this sort of photograph. The chap concerned was squatting but would occasionally wheel round and point the camera towards a lass about 50 feet away who was sitting in a short skirt with legs akimbo. My colleague observed that quite clearly this chap was in fact doing 'up skirt' shots. I believe that this is a particular genre of pornography.

Not being a photographer myself I have no idea if the camera was a DSLR. Mind following your own argument I would love to know why you consider this relevant?

@Chris

I am struggling to understand your point, are you perhaps illiterate? Have you been arrested for having a sticker in your car? Anyways that has never happened to me, and I am almost certain it will never happen.

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Oh, just wow...

You *do* realize that every time some innocent civilian is harassed, beaten or murdered in the name of "protecting us from terrorism" or "won't somebody think of the children", public resentment increases just a little and those "difficult circumstances" faced by officers become just a bit more difficult?

What is the "poor fellow" supposed to do? Obeying the bloody laws he's supposed to uphold on our behalf would be a damn fine start.

Photography only causes problems if it's blatantly intrusive to someone who isn't already pimping themselves out in the name of celebrity anyway (sorry, but public figures are fair game within reason, after all their career depends on being in the public eye), or if you're some sort of paranoid whack-job who seems criminal activity in *everything*.

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FAIL

Obvious Troll

is not very good at it.

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Upskirts and the rest

Firstly, your friend was incorrect - telephoto lenses are most certainly not the "wrong" lens for taking macro shots. In fact they are by far the most popular choice for the thousands of us who wish to take macro shots but cannot afford a dedicated macro lens.

Secondly, if this guy you're talking about was taking upskirt shots then that would be grounds for him to be stopped should an officer happen to suspect that that was what he was up to. This is completely different to an officer stopping a photographer on spurious, contrived grounds as has been happening up and down the country, especially on the Met's patch.

What you are suggesting seems to me to amount to "it's alright if police stop photographers because they /might/ be up to no good". Do you not see the total lack of logic in that?

bwx

PS: "I believe that this is a particular genre of pornography."

You mean you haven't checked?

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Boffin

Think this through

"Just thinking this one through the average copper encounters somebody taking photos for all he knows they could be a terrorist gathering intelligence for an atrocity, they may be a paedophile trying to get snaps, etc. what is the poor fellow supposed to do?"

Okay, let's think this one through.

According to http://menmedia.co.uk/news/special_reports/editors/s/1022830_rise_in_number_of_terrorists there were estimated to be about 4,000 terrorists in Great Britain in 2007. Let's say that's doubled again to 8,000.

According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedophilia#Prevalence_and_child_molestation, there is no authoritative estimate on the prevalence of paedophiles. Let's assume they're as common as terrorists.

That would make 16,000 individuals in Great Britain. According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_britain, the population of Great Britain is approximately 61.8 million (as of summer 2009)

Even if we assume that 95% of the population don't ever take pictures outside, that still leaves ~3.1 million photographers, about 16 thousand of which (0.5%) are doing so for serious criminal reasons.

Let's give the police the best benefit of the doubt and assume that criminal photographers are ten times as prevalent as the estimates seem to indicate. That would still mean that 95% of those people taking pictures are innocent. Even adding every possible criminal photographic offense is not likely to decrease the percentage of innocent snaps below 90%.

So what's the poor officer to do? Well, that's what laws and guidance are for. In this case, they tell the officer under what circumstance he or she can stop photography and/or confiscate equipment. I might agree with you if the incidents involved officers acting on their own initiative without reasonable guidance. But the whole point of this article is that the officers aren't following the guidance set up for them -- even going so far as providing the general public with false information regarding those guidelines.

Finally, what you saw watching "Katie Price..." had nothing to do with evils of photography. You saw the evils of our celebrity culture and the insane prices the tabloids will pay for pictures of people who are famous almost solely for being famous.

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Big Brother

We don't need al Qada

we have our police to terrorise us.

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Re: Over the top?

"The Police do a fair job in difficult circumstances most of the time."

The problem is the piss-poor job they do in the easy circumstances and their general twattish attitude towards the public.

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Stop

disturbing

"They suggested that these incidents were a very small part of the whole story of London policing, that to expect zero incidents was unrealistic"

I really would expect 0 incidents of the british police doing anything other than enforcing the law.. i mean, that's their job isn't it?

I'd always thought that the cops were the good guys but you hear so many stories you start to wonder after a while.

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WTF?

how many times do you have to break a law to go to jail

If we only sent people to prison for breaking the law frequently our prisons would be empty.

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Who pays?

One method to help polarise the thinking of police officers when they are making up laws as they go along is if they are personally made to pay at least some of the compensation to those they harass. As long as the Police force pays (i.e. the tax payer pays), the individual officers have no incentive to stop.

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FAIL

This kind of culture...

...is entirely unsurprising from a police force who can get away with manslaughter, quite literally.

Until we see acting police officers being correctly prosecuted for crimes committed while in uniform, we have no reason to believe they are capable of understanding or enforcing the law.

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