Police officers are not sufficiently trained in how to correctly apply anti-terror legislation when dealing with photographers, the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation has admitted.
?It?s quite clear that the Terrorism Act 2000 doesn?t make police powers clear, like a lot of legislation passed by Parliament,? said Peter Smyth.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4?s iPM programme, broadcast on 26 April, he added: ?There is insufficient training. Our officers are not properly trained in this legislation and that is probably leading to misunderstandings shall we say.?
Asked whether this has led some officers to be ?overzealous? when applying the law, Smyth replied: ?Quite clearly community support officers and police officers are getting mixed messages and I believe it is a matter of education and proper training. And Parliament should think twice about implementing laws without putting in the training packages to go with them.?
Smyth continued: ?I can find no evidence of any training on this part of the legislation. Most of the occurrences I?ve come across were community support officers. They obviously receive less training than police officers and they don?t have the same stop and search powers under normal laws. But they do have some under the Terrorism Act.?
Asked what innocent photographers should say to the officer if they are stopped Smyth said: ?They should try and remain polite and calm. Simply explain that they are going about their normal, daily, piece of their business ? it?s their hobby or their business.
?If the officer has serious concerns that the photographs? are of some sort of terrorist nature then I think he [the officer] should be asked to explain what sort of terrorist nature he thinks they are about. And if in any doubt to call a supervisor.
Commenting on whether the current climate of ?anxiety? could account for the growing number of reported incidents involving photographers Smyth told the programme: ?Certainly in London we have always had tourists with cameras taking pictures and it has never been a problem. I think it?s unreasonable of any government to expect that people are not going to go out in the street and take photographs.?
The Metropolitan Police Federation is a staff association, representing more than 30,000 officers including chief inspectors.
Contributors to the radio show included Austin Mitchell MP, whose House of Commons petition on the subject has been signed by 168 MPs.
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