Category Archives: police

Police Threaten Press Photographer

“Video of police threatening to arrest me if I do not delete pictures. Absolutely absurd behavior by them and potential blackmail. No cordon was put in place and no police officer stopped me from walking up to where I was standing… hence the other photographer just walking up after me. Police officer also claiming that he will be “touching me” in the police van back to the station.”

The video has been pulled down by the photographer for various reasons. We hope it’ll be back online soon.

Disgraceful behaviour by a plain clothed Police officer (one assumes a detective, who says he’s in charge of the crime scene, who then clearly threatens the photographer quoted above, by saying “I’ll be touching you in a Police car back to Ilford Police Station”) and a Police sergeant against a press photographer doing his job and covering a story from an un-cordoned public footway. One might accept a Police officer new to the job not to know about the rights of the press, but for two experienced officers to abuse their powers like this and then give the photographer an ultimatum to delete the pictures or be arrested, is just wrong. They also bring forth arguments of morality which is clearly not within the Police service’s mandate of things to enforce.

After all the good work done by the BPPA and NUJ with the Police service, resulting in much better Police relations than has been had in recent years, it really is an absolute shame to see this behaviour emerging again.

The Police have no right to stop anyone taking pictures in a public place. They also have no right to ask for images to be deleted. This document by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) clearly reminds officers of their powers.

NB-I have kept the identity of the photographer hidden for now. Also as I get more details on what the incident was that was being photographed, I shall update the story.

Police Censorship

Should Police Officers Censor What Press Photographers Photograph On The Public Streets?

A PCSO puts her hand up to cover the lens of Nicholas Razzell, stopping him from taking pictures. The Old Bailey. January 4, 2011. Photo: Ian Vogler

It’s a very worrying question, with an extremely worrying answer coming from some members of the Police force and even more so from Police Community Support Officers. Having several friends in the Police, I know for a fact that no where in their training does it state that officers should censor this country’s free press. As long as members of the press aren’t breaking Police cordons, or on private property after being asked to leave, the Police (and I include PCSOs in this) have no power, nor rights to interfere with a photographer going about doing their job; in this case gathering news.

Sadly, last week’s court case at the Old Bailey, where two of the racist murderers of Stephen Lawrence were finally jailed, illustrated just how ill-informed some members of the Police and PCSOs are. Just what the motivation is to stop a story like this being covered is baffling.

City of London police officers obstructing members of the press at the Old Bailey after the sentencing of David Norris and Gary Dobson for the murder of Stephen Lawrence. January 4, 2011. Photo: David Parker

Journalist, turned press photographer, Nicholas Razzell has been photographing high-profile criminal and civil court cases since 1999, including Jeffrey Archer, Paul Burrell, Kieran Fallon, Naomi Campbell, Paul McCartney, Charles Bronson, numerous murder and terrorism trials and more recently cases such as Julian Assange.

When asked about photographing these court cases, Nicholas says, “For most of that time the press and TV either self-police or on the odd occasion have had to work behind barriers. However, it is only in the last 5 years or so that I’ve found Policemen and particularly PCSO’s who have either no understanding of the law or it’s enforcement, getting involved”.

City of London police officers obstructing members of the press at the Old Bailey after the sentencing of David Norris and Gary Dobson for the murder of Stephen Lawrence. January 4, 2011. Photo: David Parker

“This came to head when Julian Assange was released from custody at the High Court in London when a Met Police Inspector (ably assisted by a Sky TV Producer) organised a “pool”…practically destroying any freelancers chance of getting a competitive picture.”

“Last week (Stephen Lawrence case, the Old Bailey) was just another occasion where we were prevented from doing our job. As yet there is no “right to privacy” in the UK (thank god) and it certainly isn’t up to uniformed and uninformed officers on the street, or PCSO’s to decide what we can and cannot photograph. Physically preventing us from getting a picture is one step away from moral and political censorship”.

City of London police officers obstructing members of the press at the Old Bailey after the sentencing of David Norris and Gary Dobson for the murder of Stephen Lawrence. January 4, 2011. Photo: David Parker

Another photographer adds, ” It was a complete joke. The Police officers couldn’t decide which side of the street to make us stand on. One officer said we couldn’t stand under the scaffolding (open to the public) on kerb opposite because “the building company haven’t given you permission” – to stand on a public street? Then they insisted we stand about 50 yards away (to do a car shot) and when the car arrived one officer followed me across the street to make sure he blocked my view. I asked another officer if this was still a public street? She refused to answer”.

One thing is for sure; a member of the Police force should not put up their hand to cover a photographer’s lens and stop images being taken. These newsworthy moments happen in a fraction of a second and are gone forever. Press photographers have a duty to bear witness, not only for the next day’s newspapers and websites, but for historical reasons too.

For any members of the Police force and PCSOs unclear about the rights of citizens (including members of the media, because we are after all, citizens too) who wish to photograph in public places, may I encourage you to read the official Met Police Photography Advice page?

Addendum:

Any member of the media, regardless of if they are a member of the NUJ or not, can report any incidents to the NUJ. Please make sure you have badge numbers and if possible, audio and/or video recordings. This will not only help the press to do our jobs properly, but will also help the Police train their officers and PCSOs better.

The Police Respond:

A City of London Police spokesperson said: “We work closely with journalists and photographers at the Old Bailey to make sure they’re able to do their job and the public are able to go about their business. We continue to liaise with journalists, photographers and the local community to ensure this is the case”.

Police Bullying Victim

15 Year Old Photographer

Jules Mattsson

Surely you remember the previous story about Romford Police who continually made up laws to try and stop Jules Mattsson, 15, from photographing cadets and Police at the Armed Forces Parade. I’m glad to report that Jules has allowed me to publish his portrait. I think it’s extremely important to put a face to the story. Here is the youngster Police harassed; why? Purely because he was taking pictures.

On Saturday 26 June, photojournalist Jules Mattsson (pictured), who is 15 years old, was photographing the Armed Forces Day parade in Romford. He was questioned and detained by a police officer after taking a photo of young cadets. He was bullied by several officers who continuously made up laws to try and make him stop and at one stage pushed him down some stairs. June 29, 2010. © Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Initial reports reported Jules as 16, but he is in fact 15.

Congratulations to Romford Police

Police Bully 15 Year Old Photographer With Fake Laws

No doubt you’ve all seen and heard the audio recordings of 15 year old photographer Jules Mattsson being harassed by the Police. What was the young photographer doing? He was photographing Police Cadets (probably older than him) at the Armed Forces Day Parade; a day during which we are supposed to support the brave men and women of the armed forces. As a photojournalist in the making, Jules decided to photograph the event. The Police decided that this was illegal and continued to make up laws to stop the young photographer working and as a result publicising the event. Please have a listen to the the recording which Jules had the foresight to make during his ordeal:

Tonight I was invited to speak at the NUJ London Photographers’ Branch. During my talk, as I looked through the crowd, I saw a young face. Someone who didn’t belong as he was far too young; I’d even go as far as saying almost child like – it was Jules Mattson. I was already upset by what I had heard but to see who Jules is, absolutely made me disgusted in the behaviour of the Police officers involved in bullying him. They should all be ashamed and I for one hope they will be disciplined for their cowardice. I have several friends in various Police forces around the country and I absolutely respect the job that is done; any officer who has come in contact with me will vouch for this. However, this bullying of a 16 year old boy is absolutely disgraceful.

I took a photograph of Jules today; he asked me not to publish it as he does not want the Police to target him. What a sad state of affairs; I do hope the officers in question read this.

Further Reading

Young photojournalist detained for army cadet pics (BJP)

Officers claim they don’t need law to stop photographer taking pictures (The Independent)

Read Police officers talking about the incident on the Police Specials forum; makes very interesting reading.

Cops & Togs

Gaza demo, London. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

No doubt you’ve all heard of the Police’s “War on Photography”; not so much Axis of Evil, but f-numbers and shutter speeds. I have to say, that its becoming ridiculous. Photographers, professional and enthusiast, are being constantly bullied and their rights completely eroded by the Police’s misuse of Section 44. For those not in the know, this act is all about Terrorism and not photography.

Someone I know through Twitter even commented that all of this is making him stop coming to London to take pictures! Its an absolute disgrace, and all the Police officers who are guilty of misusing this power, be it the officer on the street or those sat behind desks and throwing down these orders should be ashamed. How disappointing that in this free country that we think so much of, the act of wanting to photograph something in public is being used as a reason to hassle law abiding people; be they news gatherers or people being creative. We are supposed to have freedoms in this country and I beg all officers around the country to take a step back and see the situation they have created. I wonder how the tourist trade might suffer if visitors to our shores realise they’re not allowed to take photographs outdoors?!

Now I fully understand that our country is under the threat of terrorism and I myself was on the front line in Edgware Road tube station after the bombing there. I applaud our intelligence services and the Police for all the successful operations they have carried out and for cleaning the streets of extremists who do not believe in our freedoms (the Police don’t seem to believe in these either). However, I would assume that a person involved in gathering intel would probably just log onto Google’s Street View (why doesn’t anyone shut this down? I’m guessing Google’s lawyers would be a match for anybody where as individual photographers are easy targets) from the comfort of their home. Or, I would assume that they would use small cameras and blend in with the thousands of tourists around town. Maybe they would even use spy type cameras in their ties, hand bags or hats?! Would they really used big DSRLs, sometimes on Tripods? Seriously? Is this what the intelligence tells us?

Being frisked by a security guard at Wembley Stadium. Photo: Stuart Emmerson

I’ve been a professional news photographer for over 20 years now, and it saddens me to see how much things have changed. Although relations with the Police haven’t always been brilliant, they have been miles better than this. We spend so much time stood at the same cordons that its ridiculous not to become friendly! There is no need for hostility, misinformation or game playing. There is room for respect for each other, honesty and humanity.

I remember in the early 1990s going to a light airplane crash (which unfortunately was fatal for the pilot) in an address in Harrow, Middlesex. The light plane had crash landed into the wooded garden of a mansion in the area. It was one of those rare occasions when I was suited and booted, and naturally the woodland was thick and the rain heavy and constant. After a few officers played their games and sent me on wild goose chases, I finally came across an officer who showed me where it was. He took one look at me and said that I couldn’t really get through the woodland with all my gear whilst wearing leather soled shoes. To my disbelief, he took my huge Billingham bag off my shoulder, My Canon F1n and 300mm f2.8 off the other shoulder and led the way! It was a long trek. He was kind enough to take me to the inner cordon and naturally asked me not to go inside – which is totally understandable. To this day I regret not making a note of his name and praising him to his superiors. Polite and helpful; a real gentleman.

In contrast, I was covering the Palestinian demos at the Israeli Embassy in London at the beginning of the year. As the night drew on, the Police started to kick out protesters, arresting those that they had special interest in. However, press or no press, we were thrown out of this area too. Not so much of a problem, but the TSG officer escorting me to a safe distance walked next to me, with a gentle hand on my arm. Once we got there (I need to point out that I was naturally doing as asked) the officer just drove both his arms into my chest and pushed me! Why he did this, I’m not sure. I think he was perhaps aggravated that I was doing as told. Again, I wish I’d taken a note of his number. Pointless!

* ‘Togs’ is a common shortening for ‘photographers’ *