back to article Police, Cameras, Inaction!

It's finally official: Photographing police officers up to no good is an offence under anti-Terror legislation. At least that’s the view expressed by one copper up in Enfield this week: and any member of the public who has the gall to train a lens in the direction of our Boys in Blue is likely to find themselves stopped, …


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  1. Kwac

    Austrian tourists

    The Grauniad - today reports that a retired Austrian tourist & his son visiting the UK were told by police officers, who cited terrorism laws, to delete their photos of a 'traditional' red London bus & Vauxhall tube station.

    Dad regards this as a 'modern sculpture' and is therefore clearly deranged and a threat to the country. As he also says he has never been treated like this elsewhere even in communist countries, he inadvertently admits to actually visiting communist countries - so why was he allowed to go on his way?

    I bet the plod were too bloody stupid to retain his camera memory card so this pinko can use any of several hundred readily available 'undelete' programs to plan his attack on London tube stations using 'red' buses.

  2. Luis Ogando
    Thumb Up

    Good Show

    Good on Mr Sleath for standing his ground and getting the rozzers to admit their failing.

    It is worth mentioning, however, that the police get filmed as much as the rest of us by the swathe of 'public safety monitoring equipment' dotted around our cities. Although I'm not convinced that any 'obtuse' actions by officers isn't deleted...

    I think we should copy Mr Sleath's lead and really push for apologies when we get s44'd for no reason whatsoever! I notice the local constabulary don't mind being filmed when the're acting the hero on the variety of cop shows on TV nowadays.

  3. James Pickett


    Clearly the law is designed to prevent the police from being photographed under any circumstances. Some pigs are more equal than others...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Of course, it's nothing to do with...

    the increased politicisation of the police by this increasingly desparate bunch of megalomanic, freedom (of any kind) hating shower that currently govern us. Erich Hoeneke would be so proud. Helicopters/AC for obvious reasons...

  5. Tony Hoyle

    Did I miss something?

    Someone actually once believed that the police had integrity? When was this?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another case of the database being the problem

    Seems like the view of police officers is that this is caused by the need to record almost every interaction with the general public. If they were able to simply, politely ask what someone is doing, without having to make some fatuous excuse for reasonable suspicion, they'd not be in this stupid mess. Perhaps then, people would talk to the police, instead of being suspicious of officers, leading in turn to officers being suspicious and so on.

    That said, PCSOs, IMHO, complete waste of fscking time and money. Sack them all and for each two sacked, get a properly trained copper, thanks very much. If you're a PCSO that's going to be sacked, apply for the police force, if you get in, you shouldn't have been a PCSO, if you fail, then you shouldn't be involved in law enforcement in any way, shape, or form, go back to work and do something productive instead of being a drain on the public purse.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    At least also a story in Germany ...

    The story about the poor fellow from austria made a headline at (careful! - german :,1518,619548,00.html) but they failed to mention the other incidents. I think it's time to have an official warning from our foreign ministry to tourists along the lines of "do not carry photographic equipment to GB or you may be considered a terrorist" to be followed by lines like "do not carry any pictures of may-be underage people [even baby-pics of yourself] or you might be labeled a pedophile, do not carry any material even loosely connected to sexuality as you can never be sure what might be called extrem pornography, do not ... do not ... - best stay away".

  8. Mart
    Paris Hilton

    "person of colour"

    Are you allowed to say that??? I didn't think the C word was strictly PC

  9. Ben Boyle

    Public confidence?

    "serving officers who are beginning to spot the pattern and are very worried about what all this is doing to public confidence"

    I think they should have started worrying about that a long time ago. Mind you, it's not necessarily the fault of the officer on the street, more to do with government mandates that have them spending more time filling in paperwork and acting on media led initiatives of the day than actually being involved in effective policing.

  10. Armus Squelprom
    Thumb Up

    "a tipping point is being reached"

    I think this is quite right - we're reaching a historical moment where the Police (as an entire service, not just the odd bad apple) are being perceived by the public as indifferent to real crime, but obsessed with social control. They appear to us to be the enemies of freedom, not the guardians.

    Hopefully they will realise this, perhaps with the help of a change in government, and demonstrate a real cultural change. Park up the pursuit cars and choppers, get back out on the street finding lost cats and nicking urchins. Switch off the cctv, or else outsource it to a transparent, independent body. Destroy the DNA of innocent detainees, and put the riot armour away until there's a real riot (not a bunch of hippies busting a few windows).

    If they don't, then the only other option is to accept the "occupying army" role and adapt to it more effectively - more surveillance, bigger and better truncheons, introduction of waterboarding in custody suites (under a strict code of guidance, yah?). Unfortunately this may be the preferred option for many serving officers, who already feel a defining sense of 'us & them' alienation from their own community, paralleling the social isolation of the RUC during "the troubles".

    What we need to do is encourage citizens to film police officers on an everyday basis, because of their evidenced propensity for dishonesty & violence. The bad cops will be deterred from badness (not stopped, sadly) and the good cops will start asking why the public has such low regard for them.

  11. Tommy Pock

    The new police 'service'

    They really are scum aren't they?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another aspect of these cases

    In some of the recent public order cases, police officers have removed their identification numbers, as evidenced in the widely-distributed footage.

    Police identification numbers are there for a reason. Removing them is tampering with evidence, and could be seen as a criminal offence in itself (perverting the course of justice - or, if a group all remove their identification numbers, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice).

    Disclaimer: IANAL (but I am not saying who or what I am...)

  13. Anonymous Coward

    A video of something similar happening to me.

    i've posted this here before but it's relevant here again.

    what annoyed me was that i was very polite, even offering to stop filming, but then he escalated it by threatening to seize my phone.

    the point i was trying to make, which will make more sense after you've seen it, is that the evidential status of my phone, in respect of an alleged crime that had happened earlier, did not change depending on whether i stopped filming. so threatening to seize my phone was a misuse of his power.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Maybe they believe...

    ...all the hysteric rubbish we keep getting fed about the "terror threat" as they try to extend police powers. Some of it might be true, but the blanket excuse of "terrorism" for pretty much every unpopular bit of legislation leaves people without any trust in the people who make the law or who enforce it.

    It's just the boy who cried wolf.

    Surely a new law specifically protecting public photography and videography of the police, and indeed in general, would make a lot of sense right now and those who are institutionalised within the police force might realise that there have to be checks and balances on their actions too. With no other means of policing the police, and given their extensive control over public CCTV systems, it's about the only option left to try and restore trust and oust the (minority of the force who were) school bullys who joined the police because bullying in a uniform is much more satisfying.

  15. Dark Ian

    Bacon boys mess themselves again, eh?

    It seems apparent then that no matter how many complaints are lodged, newspaper stories published and mentions this issue gets in parliament, vigilante cops are still abusing their authority.

    To some extent countering this relies on the photographers themselves. Deleting the photos for the copper and then coming up with some smug forum/Flickr comment about how clever it is to have file recovery software is a common own-goal. All the time people give in to these cops, the problem will persist. It should be remembered that they cannot make you delete photos and cannot confiscate your equipment without having good reason. If you allow intimidation to have it's desired effect, we all lose. Know your rights, defend them.

    Of course with all these stop and search powers, etc, and the allowing of cops (and more worryingly PCSOs) to use their interpretation we're fighting a losing battle. As this article so rightly points out, it's only thanks to passers-by that we have evidence of some of the even more disturbing violence surrounding protestors, photographers and the like. I'm not anti-Police, anti-establishment, anti-Capitalist, I just think that the trend here is very disturbing. Where is it going to end?

    Mines the one with the plane tickets in the inside pocket.

  16. Paul


    It is time for a total rethink of how we run this country.

    We need a written constitution guaranteeing us certain inalienable rights and limiting what the people we elect can subsequently do to us.

    We need all laws rethought and stop using moral disgust as an argument to make things illegal - only moral harm should count.

    We need to get shot of the remnants of medieval feudalism too.

  17. davefb

    sadly nothing new

    as we were reminded this week , the cctv of hillsborough has 'gaps' in it.

    Still, whilst this is appalling abuse of power, it also shows that frankly, the police can't get away with this any more. In the past they were able to beat people up with impunity..

    Perhaps there should be some civil court cases against them , might make them hurry up and stop stealing peoples photographs.

  18. /\/\j17

    Missing Facts

    "This week it emerged that Mr Tomlinson was not alone, as Nicky Fisher, according to independent film record, appears to have been struck across the face by a police sergeant, and then hit with a baton."

    You've missed the fact that said officer wasn't clearly showing his shoulder identification marks - as he is required to by law...

  19. Peter Ford

    Time for a coup...

    UK police are overreaching their powers so much, we need the government to crack down on them.

    But the UK government comprises of corrupt, money-grabbing liars, so we need the police to sort them out...

    Time for the military to take over, me thinks. I hope there are enough left!

  20. Dave
    Black Helicopters

    Non cooperation

    I'm afraid that for me it's at the stage where I would be generally uncooperative with the police if I ended up close enough to an incident. I'm still happy to give them a description of what I saw, or respond to legal requests for assistance under old police laws where they can request help from the general public in nabbing the bad guy, but if they're trying to eliminate DNA or fingerprints from a crime scene then I don't trust them to not hold on to mine afterwards, so I won't be offering it.

    The police are occasionally caught between a rock and a hard place - controlling demos is either too heavy-handed (if nothing happens) or too wishy-washy (if violence and property damage occurs), but the willingness to provide a soft cushion is lessened by their behaviour at other times.

  21. Christoph Silver badge

    No worries

    "the Police will only have themselves to blame for a massive loss of public belief in their integrity"

    They don't need to fear this, any more than the Swiss need to fear a massive loss of their navy.

  22. Clem
    Black Helicopters

    Too late.

    Enough said.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle


    It seems rather odd to me that photographing bus/train stations, embassies, etc. is felt to be a potentially terrorist activity, whilst compiling and archiving precisely such photographs for free and unlimited public access through a massive database comprehensively interconnected with exact location and mapping data is not?

  24. Anonymous Coward


    What really scares me are the police who are covering up their shoulder numbers.

    Once you have anonymous police you have a Police State. Any cop who hides their shoulder numbers should be summarily dismissed.

  25. Nik

    Centrally Managed Cameras!

    Maybe the answer is to require all cameras to be registered and licensed in the same way as firearms.

    You could also stipulate that all cameras must be WIFI enabled and can only record to the Central Police Database.

    Once your happy snap has been reviewed for political/terrorist/sexual content, you will then be allowed to download it to your home PC at a nominal charge,

    Fingerprint recognition built in to the shutter release and GPS tracking would thus ensure you could be pinpointed at the location of any offending pictures and swiftly removed from polite society

    (Smiley face cos' you have to keep on thinking happy thoughts, or else....)

  26. Sillyfellow


    all i can say is that this police state will not intimidate me into being scared of using my camera, video camera , and/or voice recorder in the event of anything out of the ordinary that happens to, or near me.

    especially to keep recordings of any interactions with any 'officials/officers', since i understand that i am now required to prove my innocence to any offhand accusation. gone are the days of 'innocent until proven guilty'.

    so you watch me weather i like it or not, and i will watch you weather you like it or not.

  27. kissingthecarpet

    It was ever thus

    There's always been a dividing line between those who think "the police do a difficult job blah blah" and those who have actually had dealings with them on the wrong end. They have always done this stuff, its just that the internet & modern people not kowtowing to authority has highlighted the problem. Remember, 30 years ago, if you protested about anything, most people & the media portrayed you as a dirty hippie communist anarchist scumbag. I've had personal experience of "kettling" in the early 80's, and seen open blatant violence inflicted on innocent bystanders, by the filth who had their numbers hidden as they beat up pregnant women and children. Yes,it really happens ALL the time.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    Too Late.

    Too late, the rot has already started and the faith in the impartial upholding of the law which used to be the remit of the Police is long gone. Now they are getting dangerously close to a militia to oppress dissent against out Labour overlords. Dodgy tactics, hiding their police numbers, denying illegal acts, looking out for their own. Unable to demonstrate without permission...

  29. Anonymous Coward

    I for one

    welcome our blue serge-suited overlords, as I unlike so many of you, have nothing to hide

  30. Eponymous Cowherd
    Black Helicopters

    Catch 22?

    The only valid reason for the Police to object to being filmed is if they are carrying out an undercover operation. If they are undercover you won't know they are the Police.

    And they can't nick you without blowing their cover.

  31. Julian I-Do-Stuff

    Good for Sleath

    Especially since the PCSO patently did *not* have a reasonable belief on which to base his use of s44 powers having already been given a perfectly reasonable - to the point of irrefutable - reason for Sleath having photographed him; doubly so if you ask exactly how in the absence of the reason given the photo could have been used in the furtherance of blah blah blah...

    There really needs to be some sanction against those who abuse - or "accidentally mis-employ" - such powers... focus their minds a bit

  32. fins gd
    IT Angle


    Fair enough, delete the pictures, stick the card in a card reader, run photorec, got all yer pictures back :)

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Police shoulder numbers

    The concealment of police shoulder numbers is nothing new. It has been generic for decades.

    In the late 60s, at one of the demonstrations concerning the barricades installed at LSE, every single policeman round the anarchist section of the march had on his shoulders a letter C above a single digit, with loose thread showing on each side of that digit. I saw this personally, and checked every policeman I could see. C division by the way is West End Central, who had a thoroughly deserved dire reputation.

    Years later I commented about this to a policeman, in a casual conversation. His reaction was that it was a great joke, and that it was a common practice to swap shoulder numbers as a trick on their superior officers - not on demonstrations, but in normal service.

  34. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Your English types are really....

    .....fuxored aren't you?

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Getting a functioning complaints system for the police is like getting blood from a stone, but it needs to be done urgently. There needs to be a system completely independent from the police to which complaints about misuse of powers can be escalated should the force itself be unable to offer a satisfactory response. Such a body needs teeth; the power to require officers to be disciplined or forced to retrain in the use of the law, to adjudicate on whether the law was correctly applied, or whether a request was illegal. They should probably also monitor a random sample of 'interactions' and issue guidance should they be found wanting.

    There was a suggestion (trialed I think) of fitting pigs with head cameras to provide a record of incidents etc. At the time I thought it was a dreadful idea, but it might have advantages in that it would work both ways, provided it was permanently on. The police would have evidence should they be called to a crime in progress, we would have evidence should they overstep the mark and we made a complaint. Any such recordings would have to be out of reach for the coppers themselves, obviously.

    What surprises me with these incidents is that the senior officers often back the idiot on the ground after the event. Perhaps they are fed a different version that they choose to believe, but I think it's more likely to be about solidarity and preserving 'authority'. They might do well to think a bit harder about the damage this does to their increasing shaky public image and thus to ebbing public confidence.

    The only way they will restore public trust in the service is to earn that trust, and on current form, they're making things worse, not better.

  36. MGJ

    Root of the problem

    I think I've spotted part of the problem; the police spokesperson saying that police are trained in UK law at the start of their training and then given refresher training afterwards in their career. Since most of UK law relates to international relations rather than civil and criminal offences this might explain why the police are so crap at the law. Personally I'd rather that the West Midland police were trained in English law, since that is what they have to enforce, and my local force kept up with the Scottish equivalent

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Time for a coup...

    @Peter Ford

    "Time for the military to take over, me thinks. I hope there are enough left!"

    You won't be saying that when they've raped your sister, shot your father and tortured you for months in an internationally unrecognised prison!

  38. Anonymous Coward

    I used to think cops were on my side...

    until I had my own run in with them. I go to them with a valid concern and they tell me to sod off. Someone goes to them with a bagfull of lies about me and I find myself in an interrogation room getting a sore neck by having them grab my face and twist it 'round whenever they wanted me to look one or the other in the eye.

    The unfortunte lessons I learned were:

    1. Don't talk to the cops (they'll twist anything you say to be unrecognizable).

    2. Honesty gets you nowhere (see above).

    3. If you're a white male they don't care about you.

    4. The phonebook isn't just for looking up numbers.

    5. Always, always, always have a lawyer present when with cops.

    Mines the one with the cyanide capsule in the collar.

  39. Anonymous Coward

    No Shoulder Numbers? No Authority!

    When I was at school, many years ago, us boys were told that if we weren't wearing our ties, we weren't in school uniform. It didn't matter how much of the rest of the uniform we were wearing, it just didn't count without our ties.

    It was a state school.

    If a police officer is legitimately acting as a police officer, they will have no reason to conceal their shoulder numbers. "Nothing to hide..." and all that. So, when they're hiding their shoulder numbers, they're obviously not acting as a police officer. They're not truly in uniform, after all.

    "But the man who assaulted me with that stick obviously wasn't a police officer!" the defendant will plead.

    "The officer was clearly in uniform," the prosecution will assert.

    "A real police officer would have had shoulder numbers. But this man, who was dressed like a police officer and trying to impersonate a police officer, had bits of gaffer tape where shoulder numbers would be. It was a dead give-away. That's how I knew he was an impostor!"


    If you hide your numbers, you may be lawfully regarded not as police officers, but as criminals impersonating police officers. When you resort to physical force - or even threaten physical force - such action will be interpreted as criminal assault, which is exactly what it is. We will lawfully defend ourselves against such crimes, as is our right.


    (Since I am only "threatening" to exercise lawfully held rights, this post cannot lawfully be construed as any kind of unlawful incitement, grounds for suspicion, or anything of the sort. I keep a copy of the European Convention on Human Rights on my desktop. So there.)

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Section 44 is quickly becoming the new "suss" law

    They need no evidence, just "suspect you of terrorist" activity...

    They don't even need to say what has triggered this suspicion.

    Be afraid people, very afraid.

  41. Maty

    police state?

    'Once you have anonymous police you have a Police State. Any cop who hides their shoulder numbers should be summarily dismissed.'

    Police are human, and have a standard set of human failings. And like anyone, they don't like being caught in the wrong. Sadly, in the cause of making England 'safer' politicians have decided to award more and more powers to the police and bungled attempts to make the police more accountable'. So police use their greater powers to cover up their own misconduct and we are shocked?

    Come on - politicians couldn't have passed the legislation they did without at least the passive consent of the public. It's the public and the media that has been screaming at the authorities to protect them from hoodies with knives, child abusers, terrorists ... (You'll find the full list on the front page of our much-loved Daily Mail). Politicians are reacting to this by ever more draconian legislation.

    If it's a police state, don't blame the police. We wanted it, we urged our politicians to make it so. And isn't it nice to feel so safe?

  42. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

    Who is attracted to the job,

    in addition to those who genuinely wish to protect the public and take the responsibilities that come with their powers seriously?

    This quote might shed some light on that...

    "Evidence of the ol' glassies! Nothing up our sleeves, no magic little Alex! A job for two who are now of job age! The police!"

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing to hide? Don't count on it!

    "I for one welcome our blue serge-suited overlords, as I unlike so many of you, have nothing to hide"

    Nothing except your true username, anyway. I suspect you're being sarcastic, which means you are guilty of impersonating a traffic branch officer and will be summarily executed. :)

    Seriously though, whether you have something to hide or not rather depends on who is doing the searching. Those who say "I have nothing to hide" really mean "they're going after the people I disagree with, and I approve of that". Which can be a problem if the "they" changes, and now they're going after the people who agree with you.

    Just ask the right-wing nuts who happily supported the Bush administration's surveillance power-grab after 9/11 and are now bent out of shape because that same surveillance apparatus is in the hands of their opponents. Karma is truly a bitch. :-D

  44. Kevin Reader

    Saw Private Eye cover today, and...

    Happened to see Private Eye's cover today. Talk about choice: "We had reason to believe that he might have been a Brazilian Electrician...."

    To extend on your story the report also came out today that according to a 2nd autopsy Mr Tomlinson was sadly killed by an "Abdominal Injury" which one might expect could (say) have occured if he was violently struck, or kicked, or a baton used. Hmm. Perhaps he fell over...

    The "heart attack" previously claimed seems to hearken back to the old days when "heart failure" was a useful catchall. After all in anyone who's died their heart will indeed have stopped at some point.

    The Hillsborough footage re-shown this week should remind us that it has never been explained why 40 ambulances were outside the ground while people died as the consequence of asphyxiation on the turf. Only one was allowed in. A lot of wasted oxygen bottles one might think. The coroner also made some odd decisions like declaring the deaths over by about 15:21 when witnesses claimed people were suffering and indeed dying much later.

    RIP - to all involved and to natural justice.

  45. david

    Terrorists with cameras

    "...he advised me that under Terrorism s44 he had good reason to stop me as I was taking a photograph of a police vehicle...."

    Maybe terrorists don't know what a police vehicle looks like...

  46. Anonymous Coward

    All Coppers Are Bastards

    And they seem to have picked up the impression that we're living under some kind of martial law where they can order us citizens around on a whim.

    This is not, in fact, the case.

    Know your rights, you don't have to take their orders.

  47. Anonymous Coward

    I'm not so sure the analysis is correct...

    This issue is certainly coming to a head, but I'm not convinced it has much to do with a sudden loss of police integrity. In my view, these things have probably always happened. Anecdotal evidence certainly supports that.

    What has changed is the wide availability of cheap digital cameras and places to post images/video on the web. For the first time this gives the general public the ability to collect this evidence, rapidly put it beyond the reach of the police or politicians, and to have it widely disseminated.

    We all know that those in power feel threatened by the freedom that the internet affords. That is why they are hell-bent on controlling it, and this is one of the reasons why. It greatly increases the power of individuals relative to the state. That's good for democracy, of course, but it's always worth remembering that to the party in power, democracy is something to be feared. Much the same goes for the police. With the wide powers of discretion they have in interpreting the law, they somewhat resemble a government that doesn't have to bother with elections.

    I think we need to be pleased that technology has started to level the playing field, and to push even harder to bring those in authority to justice when it's needed. If we have to suffer constant surveillance, make damn sure those in positions of power have to suffer it as well. In my view that's as vital a principle as having a free press.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No numbers, no surprise ...

    ... I remember the miners strike when there were lots of people in police uniforms with no numbers. It is widely believed that they were not police officers, but soldiers deployed illegally against the citizens of the country. Whatever, they were usually the ones at the forefront of the fighting, and always the ones with an interesting "interpretation" of police powers.

    Regarding the photography of police, or any other public servant - quite simply, they have no right not to be photographed or otherwise recorded whilst doing their duties. That is all.

  49. Mike Lewis

    If they're not doing anything wrong...

    When filming us, the police say "If you're not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to fear." That works both ways. If the police are not doing anything wrong, then they have nothing to fear.

  50. Anonymous Coward

    If you have nothing to hide...

    then you probably also don't close your curtains at night, do you?

    That's all

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Police, cameras, inaction!

    Unfortunately all this seems to be driven by government overreaction and then the passing of blanket laws which are so vague the interpretation can be used for all sorts of circumstances in the name of anti terrorism. Then the government give the police targets i.e. we will remove your funding and or job if you don't do as I say and as a result the police and PCSO's have to go about stopping people on the slightest whiff of suspicion to satisfy the beancounters unfortunately this errodes public confidence and leads to people instead of helping the police when it would be appropriate to just antagonizing things. So in summary I blame the government who 'knows whats best for us' for causing the silly situation.

  52. ElFatbob

    no surprises here then...

    It's their pay off for allowing themselves to be the Labour's bitches.... more power, less accountability, all for the small price for slurping from wacky's brown crack.....

  53. Anonymous Coward


    watches the watchmen?

  54. Mark Aggleton
    Thumb Down


    The shift key is that funny one below Caps Lock with an upward pointing arrow.

  55. Columbus
    Black Helicopters

    Cameras to protect you from the police

    After making a complaint about some officers, I suffered from a little too much police attention.... I have 9 cameras over two adjacent properties to provide an alternative version to the 'official' police one.

    Apart from a bolshy PCSO pushing his way into the house and demanding they be taken down immediately as they were a breach of council planning regulations & the Data Protection Act it has been much quieter here now.

    Mines the one with the remote camera in it

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