Thursday, 12 February 2009

Unhappy Snaps

In a couple of days another new law will be imposed, under the Counter Terrorism Act 2008. It covers all sorts but there is a section about gathering information about armed forces personnel, security agents and police officers likely to be useful to terrorists. One would assume this is in response to the thwarted terrorist conspiracy to kidnap and behead a serving Muslim soldier the other year.

Photo journalists who have been mightily peeved in the last couple of years at getting stopped all the time by police are now worried that they are going to be carted off to clink for taking a photograph of her majesties finest. There is a defence written in, if you can show your conduct was reasonable.

Of course there has been no training and no guidance to the front line. I'm sure most people have seen by now the video of the PCSO in London approaching a film maker and not doing the best stop and account. I can't defend the indefensible and do hope that sensible guidance is forthcoming to avoid unnecessary conflict like this.

It is rather scary however that there is a need for this section of the legislation. I've been threatened by drug dealers and also a crustie type who stated he would hunt me down to my home address over the Internet and shoot me. It amused me no end and we both ended up laughing when he realised how ridiculous he sounded. Getting kidnapped and beheaded by terrorists is a different ball game, I'd be happy if the security services just prevented my demise.

Hostile reconnaissance including photography is conducted by terrorists in pre-planning atrocities. It is a fact - and sensible policing is required, using politeness and tolerance as most people will be totally innocent. I do understand how the journalists get annoyed if they are stopped constantly for doing their job.

Stressedoutcop is still approached for photo opportunities by the public and has perfected a left sided pose to please. Polite requests will still be considered despite this new law.

Unslaveme created the following video - I don't think you'll get 10 years for taking my photo, but a few "might" get arrested if the training isn't right.





26 comments:

Gjn said...

Given that before when there was no law banning photos; people were assaulted, threatened, arrested and/or had their photos destroyed - all illegally. Now there is a law, it can only get worse.

The reason why PACE etc exists is because cops are people, they are fallible and corruptible, this power will absolutely be abused.

I completely agree that the police should be protected from people gathering their details for nefarious purposes, but I also feel that photographs and images are an important part of modern society and any attempt to curtail their creation should be treated very seriously.

I can see only two reason why a police officer would want to stop someone taking their picture (or indeed, a picture not of them): they feel threatened, they're doing something they shouldn't be or they're on a power trip.

If the power is used as intended, all well and good, but somehow I don't think it will.

Gjn said...

ok, three reasons :)

Dandelion said...

a few "might" get arrested if the training isn't right.

And who's going to compensate them and give them back their DNA?

It's appalling that you can be so flippant about something so serious. Again, it is this type of casual attitude towards civil liberties that really damages public opinion of the police.

Dandelion said...

Photographs and images also constitute evidence. If we are to be prevented from gathering evidence of police misconduct where it occurs, I'd call that a police state, and a gross abuse of the citizenship. And highly dangerous to boot.

Stressed Out Cop said...

In answer to you both - This law is intended for terrorist activities and hopefully only in cases like described,god forbid there is another one, however I concede somebody is bound to balls it all up.

Dandelion

"If we are to be prevented from gathering evidence of police misconduct"

who's we? reveal yourself .. personally stressedoutcop is quite happy to be recorded and has been, acting in a professional way and spreading goodwill to all. AND that's not saying I'm perfect.

I think you will find even police bloggers are getting concerned about the creep creep erosion of civil liberties. See we agree. :)

Gjn said...

I don' think people are concerned about coppers such as yourself, more about ones like this:

"'When I took a photo of them he came running out, battered the camera from my hand on to the floor and arrested me for three crimes, none of which I'd committed.'"

http://www.metro.co.uk/news/article.html?in_article_id=273220&in_page_id=34&in_a_source=

Personally, I think there's something sinister about the police stopping people taking pictures. (notwithstanding the obvious - terrorism/plainclothes etc) And is a further step on the road we're going down.

There is also plenty of precedent for terrorism legislation being used outside of terrorism related matters, eg watching the rubbish in your bins. So saying these powers will be misused, isn't really a stretch.

MetAnon said...

i think Gjn and dandelion miss the point somewhat, i would far rather upset a few people by stopping them take photos than watch them be blown up. Further to this its not just the police who object to being filmed, when the police film public order situations for evidence, protesters often complain even if "their doing nothing wrong"
However there is a way of going about this sort of thing involving politness and common sense, the pcso in the film has clearly mastered neither.

Ex-RUC said...

Under the old Emergency Provisions Act in NI during the Troubles we had a similar offence of obtaining, etc, information.

The reputable media always used to take photos of crime scenes with police and soldiers standing with their backs to the camera.

It didn't seem to cause us any problems, either from the police or media side provided a little bit of common sense was used.

Dandelion said...

Well, Metanon, I would rather be blown up, quite frankly, than live with a situation where you can be criminalised because of police incompetence or worse, and with very little actual right of redress. That's just my view. You don't have to watch.

Though how my taking photos is going to get me blown up, I cannot imagine.

It's funny how quickly people forget what it was like with the IRA. We lived with the risk. We didn't rush to use it as a thinly-veiled excuse to systematically remove people's civil liberties. Anti-terrorism legislation is already being misapplied - this is not a paranoid spectre, it's reality.

As to who is "we", SoC, I mean the general law-abiding public, the citizens, the electorate, the tax-payers.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the point of the legislation.
The contact details and photos of significant numbers of PC's and PCSO's are available on force websites, beat posters in shops and libraries e.t.c.
What exactly is going to be gained from this legislation, if a terrorist wanted to kill me he could simply get my works mobile number and ask to meet me.
If he wants to kill a response cop he simply needs to call 999 and wait for them to turn up. It's all pointless.

Stressed Out Cop said...

Dandelion

Your comment is stupid re getting blown up and insensitive. I know the wife of a BTP officer who attended to the injured at the tube bombings. What say you re his actions which impacted on his family. Yes - we do have to watch.

Also we are citizens, tax payers and the electorate too. AND hopefully law abiding

Anon

You are right the new policing pledge encourages photo's being put on the net. Mine will not be on there. I suppose printing these off for the wrong purposes comes under the act.

Ex-RUC + others

I like common sense let's hope it prevails.

Gjn

Recall that one on link - he was on a race community board - lucky to keep his job

Dandelion said...

I object to your assertion that my comment was insensitive. It could only be seen as such if you fail to appreciate the strength of my protest against unchecked police aggression/error/corruption. To be blown up is horrific, yes. And to me, even something so horrific is preferable to having to live in fear of the next police balls-up, cover-up or worse (cf Jean-Charles). People's lives are at stake.

Point taken about the watching. But presumably you have to watch people going under trains as well, and being murdered in other unnecessary ways too. My feeling is that in the police this is sadly an unavoidable part of the territory.

Yes, hopefully police officers are law-abiding, but in the cases where they are not, they are largely self-investigated, and a citizen's right of redress is in effect very minimal. This is tantamount to carte blanche for police to abuse their position with impunity. And this I object to. That's all.

MetAnon said...

yes Dandelion peoples live are at stake, if jean charles had been a suicide bomber and had blown himself up it would have been july 7th all over again, if he'd been a suicide bomber and he had been stopped the officers probably wouldnt have even been recognised, at least not to the public.
The fact is he was innocent and every police officer has to live with that fact for a very long time because people like you will always bring it up, if you want to bring this up as an argument perhaps you should consider how the officers who pulled the trigger feel, how they will feel for the rest of their lives.

R/T said...

Dandelion - why don't you f#@k off to a blog where someone gives a f#@k what you think?

Dandelion said...

Hi MetAnon

I suspect Jean-Charles's family and friends will also keep bringing it up, whatever "people like me" think about it. I wonder why that is? It's because an innocent man is dead, thanks to bungling police, that is why.

Regardless of how the officers feel, there doesn't seem to be any accountabliilty for what happened, and that is a very dangerous situation. It means it is not only the criminal classes who have something to fear from the police. It means that we are all living in fear of our lives, not just from the terrorists, but from the very people who are supposed to protect us. Which means that the police are no better than the terrorists, if we all have to live in fear of what atrocity you will do next.

MetAnon said...

I cannot agree that there is no accountability, every human being has a moral accountability for their actions - police officers the same as everyone else.
It’s a cliché but the fact is the officers who shot him were just following orders in a situation few people will could comprehend, if you were facing someone you honestly believed was about to kill you, your friends and everyone around you what would you do?
Perhaps if there should be accountability, it should rest with who was ultimately in charge of the operation, however it seems that the officers on the ground make an easier target.
If you are under the impression that firearms officers are all trigger happy, corrupt and bungling please watch ‘In the line of fire’ on ITV, I don’t deny some of what you see will be violent and aggressive however to protect themselves and the public, officers must take control of the situation quickly and safely, it’s not just an idea - doing it like this works.
Finally, I’ll repeat the point I made earlier and often make in this sort of discussion...What would you do faced with the same situation?

Dandelion said...

I am not talking about moral responsibility. If that was all that mattered, we wouldn't bother sending people to prison, would we?

No, I am talking about accountability under the law. As it stands, it appears that the police can lie with impunity, can bungle, and even murder people, and the justice system has nothing to say about it, and no way to stop it. Not a deterrent, I would say.

As far as Jean-Charles goes, the police have got away with it. I've no idea who was responsible, but someone was, and they've got away with it. Speaking as a law abiding member of the public, it's frighening, it really is. Who's going to be next?

MetAnon said...

Firstly prison is as much about protecting the law abiding public as about punishing the criminal.
We are talking about one case in millions where someone made a mistake, and yes the consequence was terrible. This will affect the two officers who shot Jean Charles more than any legal consequence ever could.
“the police can lie with impunity”... no police officers can be guilty of perverting the course of justice like anyone else and if found guilty the results will be much worse.
“can bungle, and even murder people”... no the DPS take a dim view of bungling and it’s a very long time since a police officer murdered anyone whilst on duty, but I’m not going to spend the rest of my life arguing legal niceties.
I’m also a law abiding member of the public, that’s the point about the police we are the public as well, as are our families and friends. Please remember this when you refer to ‘the police’ that we are still people like you or anyone else - I expect you’d be the first to tell me that stereotyping is wrong.
Personally, getting shot for no apparent reason is frightening, but not half as frightening as having to face someone who maybe about to explode and kill everyone around me.

Consider this next time you are about to describe ‘the police’ (the MPS alone has over 31000 officers) as liars and bunglers or whatever else...
I get up and go to work knowing that I may be asked to risk my life, that I may never see my girlfriend again etc etc, but that’s ok because I love my job - helping and protecting the people of London, as do officers all over the country, we do not go to work to punish innocent people or for a power trip.

P.S. You never answered my question...What would you do?

Dandelion said...

When you are at work, as well as being a member of the public, you also enjoy some very extra-ordinary powers and priviledges in order to do your job. When I say "the police", that is what I am referring to.

The Jean-Charles case has shown that police can bungle with impunity and face no consequences, and that innocent people can be killed in error and their loved ones have no redress, and the murderers pay no penalty and are allowed to roam free.

The notion of the public's right to redress for police misconduct is a sham as you well know. The vast majority of cases are self-investigated by the force in question, as you well know, and as you will also know very well, most cases fail to be upheld. The reason for this is that police have carte blanche to a) lie and cover up for eachother, and b) withhold and destroy evidence of their misdoings. The general public haven't got a chance. You are better placed than the average Joe to know this, yet you brazenly whitewash over this state of affairs. Why's that I wonder?

However the trigger-pullers are feeling, I suggest it is no different to how anyone convicted and imprisoned for manslaughter is feeling about the person's death. But oh, it is one rule for police, and another rule for everyone else, isn't it?

The public need to be protected from police who are incompetent, because at the extreme, our lives are at stake, as Jean-Charle's death graphically illustrates. That's how important your job is, it's life and death, and that's how important it is that there are proper checks and balances, and proper accountability. Collateral damage is not acceptable.

Your refusal to acknowledge the existence of bad apples, and the need for proper public protection from them is tantamount to condoning what they do. The news is full of stories of police misconduct that couldn't be redressed. I don't understand how you can deny or belittle it. You undermine the very job you claim to so love doing, not to mention the appearance of your own integrity/competence.

As to what I would do, I would sack and arrest all those concerned with Jean-Charles, since they have lied and obfuscated so much, it's impossible now to know where the true blame lies. At the very least they should all get a caution, and certainly never be allowed in the police ever again. Not only incompetent, but demonstrably corrupt, according the jury. These are not characteristics that belong in the police force, which, if you care about it so much, you should be in full agreement with?

MetAnon said...

Why should individual officers be punished for following orders? Instead of criticising a situation you don’t fully understand, just be grateful that there are people ready to risk their lives on your behalf.
Corruption in the police is as unacceptable as in any public office but it is the exception rather than the rule.
You do not have to agree with me, it’s a free country (apparently). But respect what the majority of us do and don’t judge me or any police officer based on the perception of us, as an organisation you have gained from the media. I hope you never need the police but if you do will expect us to act regardless of who you are, what you believe or why, or will you not want our help because ‘we’re the police’
You misunderstand me when I say what would you do, I meant what would you do stood opposite a man you honestly believe has a bomb, a man you honestly believe is about to blow himself up and take you, your colleagues and the general public with him. You have the only practical method of stopping him, what do you do?
By the way you’ve got less than 1 second to decide.

Anonymous said...

Dandelion,
you also enjoy some very extra-ordinary powers and priviledges in order to do your job.
Along with some pretty heavy responsibilities. Does your job place restrictions on where you live and who you associate with? If you commit a criminal offence will your sentence be heavier than that of a member of the public? Will a mistake in your day-to-day job make you liable for charges of misfeasance or malfeasance?

The vast majority of cases are self-investigated by the force in question, as you well know, and as you will also know very well, most cases fail to be upheld.
Do you have any conception of the number of malicious complaints or complaints as a defence tactic that are made? Do you propose that every complaint of “The police officer that arrested me was impolite” should be handed to the IPCC. Never fear – Internal Investigations will be collating a file – and officers receiving a growing number of complaints do get investigated and disciplined.
The reason for this is that police have carte blanche to a) lie and cover up for eachother, and b) withhold and destroy evidence of their misdoings.
A somewhat paranoid outlook. Undeniably it has happened, however do you have an entire department dedicated to rooting out corruption and wrongdoing in your organisation? Should that fail do you have a second separate organisation exist to review their work and take on complaints?
Perhaps you could suggest a better system for watching the watchers.

However the trigger-pullers are feeling, I suggest it is no different to how anyone convicted and imprisoned for manslaughter is feeling about the person's death. But oh, it is one rule for police, and another rule for everyone else, isn't it?

It is indeed – in the case of the police I believe there were 4 separate enquiries and a health and safety trial. A member of the public would have received one trial (and numerous appeals on conviction).

that's how important it is that there are proper checks and balances, and proper accountability. Collateral damage is not acceptable.
I agree – what further checks and balance would you suggest?

The news is full of stories of police misconduct that couldn't be redressed.
This is an exaggeration. There are tens of thousands of police officers in the country and countless PCSO and civvy staff as well. I can’t see endless pages of police corruption in the news – even in the Grauniad 

As to what I would do, I would sack and arrest all those concerned with Jean-Charles, since they have lied and obfuscated so much, it's impossible now to know where the true blame lies. At the very least they should all get a caution, and certainly never be allowed in the police ever again. Not only incompetent, but demonstrably corrupt, according the jury.

Yes the jury decided they did not believe what the firearms officers said – in particular the key point of shouting a warning. This is not a jury saying the police were demonstrably corrupt. That is a jury believing one set of witnesses and not another. Did they or didn’t they? Well I don’t know – and neither do you. The system we have adjudged that they didn’t. Were they on trial this issue may have been key – however they weren’t.
Perhaps they should have been – however the combined might of the coroner, the IPCC and the CPS do not seem to feel that a provable case could be run at court.

As for sacking and arresting all those involved in this matter – I take it you are including the surveillance teams, the intelligence teams, the control room officers, the back-up teams as well as the management team and firearms officers. Perhaps throw in a few of the MI6/MI5 boys that were undoubtedly involved as well. Or perhaps you are in possession of some omniscience greater than those who have investigated this and can determine your own particular scapegoat.

De Menezes’ death was a tragedy. It was avoidable – in hindsight everything always is. It involved a number of highly specialised teams of officers from within the largest police force in the country. To hold it up as an example of deep rooted corruption within the police service nationwide is misguided at the least.

Tango

Dandelion said...

Anon: This is laughable, it really is. Most people, when they're in a hole, would stop digging.

Jean-Charles was denied justice because the police lied at every turn, and even doctored records post hoc. As a result of which, the possibility of a successful prosecution was pretty much ruled out. That looks like a demonstration of remorse. Not.

And you seriously think the public should have any faith whatsoever in the police now, or in the systems in place for managing them? It's a joke. I'm sorry if that hurts your feelings, but the facts of that case (and I mean the facts, the known facts) speak for themselves. Corruption, incompetence and dishonesty at the highest levels.

What we learn from the outcome is that what happened to Jean-Charles could happen to any of us. And I for one don't like that. Sorry if it offends you. You clearly don't seem to mind the death of innocent people, and don't think it should be punished. Fair enough, but I disagree, and I don't think that people with such a view should be invested with the authority we give police officers.

The reason I say punish all those involved is because they've lied so much we can't now establish exactly who was responsible. That shouldn't be the De Menezes problem, it should be the police's problem. And in a sense it is. By evading justice, they have undermined any vestige of integrity the police force may have had. I personally wouldn't want to work for that kind of employer, but there you go.

You can't have it both ways. Either Jean-Charles is denied justice, or the public respect and have faith in the police. Your employer has chosen the former, and sadly that impacts upon you, via the loss of public faith in your organisation. I'm dismayed by that, and your attempts to deny the state of affairs really don't improve things.

MetAnon - ditto, really. I refuse to be grateful for a police force that kills innocent people and then tries to cover up what happened, to the point where a fair trial is impossible. A police force like that is one we'd all be safer without.

I pray I never need to use the police, too. Frankly, I'd sooner take my chances with an axe-murderer than have a met policeman anywhere near me. Granted, there are good ones, but how am I supposed to know which is which until they've shafted me? Safer to seer clear, I reckon.

MetAnon said...

And again you fail to answer the question, what would you do stood opposite a man you honestly believe has a bomb, a man you honestly believe is about to blow himself up and take you, your colleagues and the general public with him. You have the only practical method of stopping him, what do you do?
By the way you’ve got less than 1 second to decide.

Stressed Out Cop said...

Dandelion

I've already posted my views on JC so won't go on about it. Most police officers do understand the facts and also public opinion of some including you. MetAnon makes a fair point about split moment decisions - it was a error of gigantic proportions. A position I would not like to be in.

Dandelion said...

MetAnon, if you honestly believe it, it's a no-brainer.

Whether they honestly believed it, I've no idea. And regardless, the fact remains that an innocent man was excessively shot in the head, with way more than reasonable force, and is dead. Whosoever made the mistake should be held accountable. And since they've all lied and obfuscated so much, the only reasonable course of action is to hold all involved jointly responsible. The police need to know that closing ranks and perverting justice is not acceptable, and is not a preferable option to honesty and integrity. They should be punished severely for that if for nothing else.

Dandelion said...

Oh, and ps, re: the officers who pulled the trigger, the poor darlings, I do not believe that anyone held a gun to their head and made them join the armed police against their will. They put themselves in that position, pure and simple. If they were let down by their superiors, they should be gunning for them (no pun intended), not covering up for them.