Terrorist photographers would not ‘set up a tripod’
December 16, 2009
PAGE One: Police target photographers
It seems doubtful that terrorists carrying out a reconnaissance mission would use the tripods and chunky, attention-grabbing, camera gear used by many amateur and professional photographers, says a leading photography body.
The Bureau of Freelance Photographers (BFP) was reacting to yesterday’s publicity drive by the City of London Police that aimed to highlight the importance of police questioning photographers.
Yesterday police showed journalists what they claimed was a ‘hostile reconnaissance’ video captured last year by an Algerian tourist using a handheld camera phone.
However, many of the enthusiasts and professional photographers who have been stopped in recent years have reported using an SLR-type interchangeable lens camera and a tripod, not a discreet compact camera or a mobile camera phone.
Stewart Gibson, head of Members’ Services at the BFP said: ‘We have always said that if someone is taking pictures surreptitiously they would not do so “surreptitiously” by setting up a tripod.’
Police are understood to have released the mobile phone footage in direct response to widespread criticism of police policy on photography in public in recent weeks.
The controversy has sparked a series of articles in Amateur Photographer over recent years, leading the magazine to champion the rights of photographers.
Police said the 90-minute film, captured using a Nokia mobile phone, shows shopping centres, security cameras and stations.
Police obtained the footage after two officers stopped and questioned the Algerian at Liverpool Street Station last summer.
They said that the man is seen covering the red recording light with his finger.
It turned out that the man and his brother had entered Britain on false passports and were involved in fraud.
They were not charged with terrorism offences partly, police say, because the fraud offences carried roughly the same penalties.
Asked what advice the BFP would give photographers in today’s climate Gibson said: ‘Be polite and co-operative but continue to assert your rights? ask them [the officer] in a common sense way what all the fuss is about.’
Watch a recent More4 News report HERE
Page Two: Call for clarification over police policy
Last week City of London Police urged photographers taking pictures in the Square Mile to carry ID, as the area continues to be considered a prime terrorist target.
But Gibson said that, generally speaking, he didn’t think it necessary for photographers to carry identification.
He said photographers should not get ‘paranoid’.
However, Gibson was reluctant to comment on police policy in the City, saying this was a ‘specialist area’.
Earlier this week the Met’s terrorism chief John Yates stressed the importance of officers’ using ‘common sense’ when dealing with photographers.
However, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has this week once again conceded that photographers are not required to identify themselves when quizzed by a police officer or security guard.
Grant Smith, the photographer who was searched last week after taking pictures of churches in the City has today called for clarification of police policy.
Smith today told Amateur Photographer: ‘The point is that the Met has extended a hand and said they must use common sense. The City of London Police has gone on the offensive. They are obviously not talking to each other.’
ACPO had yet to comment on this at the time of writing.
Commenting on the Algerian tourist’s phone footage a City of London Police spokesperson told us: ‘The individuals concerned had been in the UK a number of years using false identities and committing fraud. Many locational references are linked to areas where their fraudulent activity took place, rather than hostile reconnaissance.’
Watch a recent More4 News report HERE