Picture: Police deal with a minor incident during a protest organised by photographers in Trafalgar Square on 23 January Photo: Chris Cheesman

A police officer has blamed the government for instilling a climate of suspicion surrounding photographers but insists police should be allowed to get on with their jobs.

‘It has been drummed into us that there is no specific profile for a terrorist so, therefore, any member of the public, in theory, could be a suspect if they are photographing iconic sites,’ wrote the ‘junior officer’ in a letter sent to the Bureau of Freelance Photographers (BFP).

The officer, who declined to be named, hit back at criticism levelled against ‘junior officers’ and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) over their use of controversial anti-terror stop-and-search laws.

He claimed that police on the beat find themselves in a ‘Catch-22’ situation.

‘Picture this: the government, in response to terrorist attacks produce an ill-thought out piece of legislation that requires officers to account for every person they speak to, irrespective of what the incident is,’ wrote the officer in this month’s BFP Market Newsletter.

The officer added: ‘The government has a requirement to show they are getting value for money from police forces up and down the country and therefore they are under pressure to show they are hitting government-based targets on stop-and-account. Simply put, Plod on the street is told to produce x amounts of “stops” every week/month to hit the targets.’

The officer also expressed dismay that senior police officers feel ’embarrassed and depressed’ over ‘misuse of the powers’ and urged police chiefs to lobby for a change in government policy, ‘instead of chasing figures and hitting targets’.

‘As a junior officer and an amateur photographer I sit on both sides of the fence and sympathise with both sides. Yes, it’s not nice to be stopped by police for taking what we consider innocent photos, but as the cop doesn?t know us and our intentions, who are we to criticise him when he is doing his job?’

Responding to the claims, the BFP described the letter as ‘revealing’.

‘Quite simply, the police are under pressure to treat us all as potential suspects,’ states the BFP’s leader article.

‘It may only be a few officers who are guilty of using the law maliciously, yet it is obvious that photographers will continue to be seen as a convenient easy target as long as the police have their own government-imposed targets to meet.

‘And there remains the problem of those ill-informed, or ill-trained officers – for the most part PCSOs – who simply haven’t a clue how to use the powers they have in a sensible and commonsense manner.’

Full details appear in the February edition of the BFP’s Market Newsletter.



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