back to article Police snapper silliness reaches new heights

After lagging well behind other forces for most of the year, City of London Police are now making a late surge to take the coveted El Reg prize for most absurd photographic intervention of 2009. We were not especially impressed by their sending of seven officers in three cars and a riot van to deal with architectural …


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  1. Captain TickTock


    Playing the anti-terror card...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Will go on...

    ...until at least one police officer is sacked from the force for their actions.

    Whereupon the police unions will start talking about a witch hunt.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    a mass turnout of Photographers on 23 January 2010.

    Recomendation: Get yourself an Eye-Fi Share SD card. then any photos will be TRANSMITTED LIVE upto the interwebs would like to see how the rozzers like that!

    I'm going to confiscate your camera.. sure officer... pullls out I phone and browses to website oh look its here too... next photog oh and here!... ad infinitum.. until rozzer decides to confiscate the cloud.

    anon because...

    1. treboR


      Nice idea, if they bring out a 3G version.

  4. Hollerith 1

    It's not just the police

    We were taking photos around Paddington Basin development in London when as security guard emerged to send us on our way.

    We went, and so didn't have coffee in the local Starbucks, nor did we stay for lunch in the basin, as planned, so two local businsses lost out. But they are certainly secure from our little cameras!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Police bullies

    The police now are nothing more than legalised thugs. They intimidate, do not do the job they are supposed to do and are ONLY visible to the public when it suits them.

    How many times have you seen a bobby on the beat doing his job properly? How many times have you seen a copper (Or been involved in) in a situaiton where the persons being harrassed are allowed to state their opinions without being bullied by the copper because that person obviously does not 'know their rights' even though they have stated it to the officer on numerous occasions.

    If you have ever been confronted by one of these idiots you will know that it's pointless even defending yourself from them. They ignore you and stomp all over your 'rights' and rarely get even a slap on the wrist because their peers and those above them are just as bad.

    Being an avid photographer I always check to see who is about when shooting and try to avoid being in line of site of CCTV's. It has restricted my hobby these days in built up areas. You are best off going far far out into the country (Or leave the country entirely) if you want to take photos these days.

  6. Ben Rosenthal
    Big Brother


    "calling for a mass turnout of Photographers, professional and amateur "to defend our rights and stop the abuse of the terror laws" on 23 January 2010."

    has anyone mentioned to them that if they do this, they will then be photographed by the police forward intelligence teams and kept on file as a potential trouble causer to be stopped and searched as and when the local plod see fit?

    1. The Original Ash


      All the more reason to do it, as often as possible, in as plain sight as possible, so the view the public sees is no longer "Police stop terrorists by arresting photographers" but "Police arrest photographers for taking pictures" and the whole country can point, laugh, and eventually get the Act amended to be sensible.

    2. John Sturdy

      Dilution of data on people who disagree with the government

      Spamming the FIT files might help to reduce their usefulness, thus helping the right to express views not approved by the government (and thus lead to the End of Civilization As We Know It, about time too if this is what that civilization has led to).

      Come to think of it, they could build a much smaller database if they just listed the few who *do* agree with the government, instead of those who don't.

    3. JCL
      Thumb Down


      you could crawl into a hole and talk about the good old days.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother


    The author seems to be under the illusion that the police forces in the UK actually listen to what the Home Office or the Law actually tells them. This is just not true.

    The police listen to their Chief Constables, the Chief Constables talk to other Chief Constables, but listen to nobody.

    The harrassment of people going about he lawful occasions will continue until the Chief Constables are made personnably responsible for the actions and policies of their force, sorry service.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Easy for the Met to catch up

    All they have to do is go to London Bridge any weekday (when it is not raining, so they don't even need to get wet) and they will find loads of tall terrorist photographers pointing their cameras along the bridge.

    These photographers (I'm to scared too take my camera out there, it is only a few miles away from parliament, so probably section 40 and 1/2) don't seem to care, they just click away and sometimes must photograph children, so double whammy.

    I stick to photographing blades of grass in my back garden and am very careful not to take the lens cap off until the camera is pointing down, but I still expect the tap on the shoulder.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Foot-in-mouth considered contagious

    I think we'll see peak oil before we'll see police stupidity receding after peaking. They have clearly as-of-yet untapped depths of this new natural resource to explore and the full legislative backing to put into doing just that. Expect much, much more, photography is only the beginning of NuTerrorism. Carry on government.

  10. Neal 5

    what can one say?

    Your story encapsulates everything about what is wrong with society today. Loss of respect only degenerates into an ever decreasing circle, maybe?

  11. H2Nick

    Thought the Govt was short of a few bob

    Maybe they could cut some of the police budget - they clearly have too much if they can afford to waste time chasing photographers

  12. Anonymous Coward


    Nuff said.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Permit to film

    You can get these from the same government office that you buy Fish Licences from. (Exit stage right, humming "Liberty Bell".)

  14. noboard
    Thumb Down


    All I get from this article is the Police asked the reporter if he had a permit to film. When shown his pass, the Police went on their way. What's the problem here?

    I'm no fan of the Police, but I don't see anything wrong. Confiscating people's equipment for taking photo's is wrong, but asking to see a permit isn't.

    Is it just me or are there a fair few of these non stories about at the moment?

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      You obviously don't get it at all

      There's NO permit required to film a public place, so the police have no standing asking for one, and it's just a scare tactic.

      They only backed off at seeing the press pass because a newspaper story could make their lives miserable.

    2. Mark McC

      Do you have a posting permit?

      The point is that the police asked him for a non-existent permit. How is anyone supposed to produce a permit for an activity where permits aren't required and don't exist? He didn't have one (because there's no such thing) but luckily he managed to fudge them off with his press card. Without it, he'd probably have been taken down the station for the whole matter to be sorted out. By sorted out, I mean sitting in a holding cell for 6 hours before being chucked out onto the street with nary an apology, after being told that they'll be keeping their eye on him and he better not cause any more aggro for the cops.

      Filming/photographing in a public place is not subject to having the correct permit any more than using a mobile phone in public or walking down the high street requires an official permit (although it's only a matter of time).

    3. Paul RND*1000
      Big Brother

      What's the problem?

      Easy: there is no such thing as a "permit to film" at least not for public places in the UK.

      The "pass" shown was his press credentials, at which point the cops pursuing matters further would have gone well beyond shooting themselves in both feet and so they wisely fucked away off, as they should have done in the first place.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      Yeah right, 'errrmm', suck that digit and pray

      errrmm and why exactly would you need a 'permit' to take photographs? Or use a camera in public? It may be a non-story to you, but I won't be the only one here for whom it has very much been a story on numerous occasions while doing something quite legal.

      It's that "permit, sure, why not?" attitude that just encourages the fuckers. There is a school of what is tenuously described as thought in the amateur photography world that photographers SHOULD have some sort of permit or "photographers ID card" to stop this happening to them. What they are usually talking about is the membership of some semi-scam organisation that advertises in the back of a semi-smut photo magazine and will give you an "ID" to prove you are a bona-fide photographer for a tenner. A rip off really when you consider that 5 minutes in a graphics program and a sheet of A4 in an inkjet will buy you just as many bona-fides.

      As to a permit; from who, do you suggest? The filth? Nice revenue stream for them (all that form filling!), but why on earth would we want that?

      While this news really does make me despair in a way that the last few years of such stupidity hasn't managed, the comments from the "they can't get me if I put my head under the blanket and suck my thumb" fraternity actually make it worse.

      Especially sad as, until this, the City Police were a comparative beacon of common sense compared to their Met colleagues, although sadly the same can never be said of the private muppets that do security - with the entirely honourable exception of the Lloyds security people.

      Paris, cos you don't need a bloody permit her interesting structures, just perseverance and a stroke of luck

  15. Sordid Details

    What about Streetview?

    Bizarrely the police seem oblivious to the activities of Google, photographing every street, shop, bank and house front, for which anecdotal evidence already exists to suggest criminals are using said images to look for opportunities or to plan activities.

  16. 1of10

    And what about this?

    Would a photographer equipped with AT launcher instead of a simple photographic camera have same welcome committee or none of the London police would dare to get near?

    The betting starts now!

    yet another episode of the telly series...Absurd policing on absurd times

  17. richard 55


    They're clearly convinced that cameras are some kind of deadly weapon

  18. ewan 3

    Re: Errrmmmm

    The point is that there is no such thing as a permit to film on public property. You can film where you want. The police invented it.

  19. Lionel Baden

    I really love the stupidity of these morons

    you cant take a photo of that ...

    why not

    National security

    oh then why is it on street view !???

    Bah ....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But I've already seen it anyway

      If I can take a photo of something, that means I've already seen it and have some fuzzy notion of its appearance filed away in my brain.

      So what next? Mind erasure "for the preservation of national security"?

      The really screwed up thing about all this war on photography crap is that they're targeting the exact opposite of what the real threat (if one even exists) would be.

      Really, if you were a terrorist on recce and didn't want to be caught in the act, would you:

      a) break out the big DSLR, tripod and lens?

      b) take a photo on your iPhone while pretending to text?

      c) just commit the fucking thing to memory drawing no attention and leaving no incriminating evidence of any sort on your person?

      My money would be on C).

  20. Chris Procter

    Sounds exciting

    I've never had any trouble with the Police. Even when I got done for speeding the officer was very nice about it.

    I might go on the streets taking lots of photos to see what fish I reel in!

  21. Pete 2 Silver badge

    misplaced optimism

    While it would be lovely to hope that the police will have a mass attack of common sense, every change in police tactics, intelligence (both IQ and fact-finding), and community spirit since Dixon of Dock Green indicates an unerring move AWAY from this ideal, rather than towards it.

  22. Michael Fremlins

    Time for a new offence

    Any police officer who stops somebody who is taking photographs in a public place, unless there is clear intention that said photography will be used for terrorist purposes, shall be guilty of an offence.

    The sentence will be 6 months imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Ho Hum

    If only ITN and other news media would shout and scream about such ridiculous police harassment then maybe more of the public would realise we're not walking into a police state but have already arrived.

    @ Ben Rosenthal ( and other worried individuals )

    Sure, almost everyone protesting ( exercising their democratic rights ) gets filmed by FIT ( 'fitted up' you might say ) and it's precisely fear of that and its consequences which dictatorships and police states use to keep their citizens too scared to speak up or protest. One can either choose to protest and suffer the consequences or comply with the state no matter how wrongly you feel about what it does. If anyone fears when doing nothing wrong then they should be acutely aware that they are being oppressed, that something is seriously rotten in this country.

    "All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good men to stand by and do nothing" - or something like that.

    Thank god for all those who are prepared to be martyrs on behalf of others the world over. Who would have thought Britain could come to this? I hope to be there. You either die on your feet or live on your knees.

  24. Ian 35

    Simply sack 20% of the police

    If they've got time to piss away on this sort of nonsense, they don't have enough work to do. Any policeman who arrests someone for a non-offence should be disciplined.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Australian Tourism Award

    After being won for many years by the TSA, the English and Welsh police are now in the running for the Australian Tourism Award given to "the person or group best promoting Australian tourism."

    We should change the "Where the bloody hell are ya" slogan to "You can take pictures downunder, no worries."

    I am puzzled by the discrimination between "amateur" and "professional" cameras with the latter deemed to be more dangerous. Would it be more accurate to call them "cameras the rozzer can afford" and "cameras the rozzer cannot afford"?

    I am also concerned that confiscating someone's camera would be an easy way to get a bomb inside a police station.

    1. Steve Roper

      Not quite

      As an Australian I can tell you it's almost as bad if not worse here. Not because of the police - I've never been bothered by an officer for taking pictures - but members of the public.

      I've been abused multiple times by people when taking photographs in public places, most notably being loudly denounced as a "paedophile" by an angry couple whose children (at a distance of around 80 metres and completely unrecognisable in the picture) happened to be in the line of my shot.

      Our cops aren't that bad, but a lot of people here are vile bloody PC wowsers. Have a friend with you if you're photographing in crowded places - I've noticed it discourages these bastards.

  26. Mark McC
    Big Brother

    Another late contender joins the race

    The Northern Irish police force have come in with a late bid, arresting and bringing to court a 17-year old boy who took a picture of a police car on his mobile phone. ( Apparently this picture could be of vital use to terrorists in tracking police movements (HINT TO TERRORISTS: They're the stripy ones with the flashing lights and sirens).

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Started in 2006, won't end in 2010

    Searching the net as you do there is a case of a photographer being arrested for taking an innocent picture in 2006 in Tyneside -

    So the police have been doing it for years, and probably won't stop in 2010.

  28. Onionman

    From Catch-22

    "Help!" he shrieked shrilly in a voice strangling in its own emotion, as the policemen carried him to the open doors in the rear of the ambulance and threw him inside. "Police! Help! Police!" The doors were shut and bolted, and the ambulance raced away. There was humorless irony in the ludicrous panic of the man screaming for help to the police while policemen were all around him. Yossarian smiled wryly at the futile and ridiculous cry for aid, then saw with a start that the words were ambiguous, realized with alarm that they were not, perhaps, intended as a call for police, but as a heroic warning from the grave by a doomed friend to everyone who was not a policeman with a club and a gun and a mob of other policemen with clubs and guns to back him up. "Help! Police!" the man had cried, and he could have been shouting of danger."

  29. Martin 6 Silver badge

    We just need a badge

    City of London Police said: "Photographers should carry identification where possible and be prepared to answer questions about why they are taking photographs, "

    Can I suggest a little flash symbol, perhaps something yellow in a star shape?

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      You already HAVE a badge

      In order to be recognised as a member of the public entitled to take pictures, you merely need .. a camera. It's that simple. Demanding anything more without due cause is harassment.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    More creative options

    I am also concerned that confiscating someone's camera would be an easy way to get a bomb inside a police station.


    Or slap a selection of virii and trojans on the card and let them inspect it. Possibly in a handy folder of 'candid' shots to encourage circulation.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Misplaced optimism

    Sad but true. I have to agree. If I'm not mistaken, it was only just recently that a law was passed making it illegal to photograph the police. It may have had a qualifier, but one just as bullshit as the section 44. So now providing the press with the evidence of abuse gets conveniently harder. That law was about as much as a blow to democracy as the law that made it illegal to demonstrate closer to the houses of parliament.

    Clearly the police have a massive budget, wikipedia list it as 3.7 billion/annum just for the London met. With all the talk of reducing the deficit police are one of the list they keep mention will have protected budgets. No hope there.

  32. Stevie


    He knew the risk when he pulled his instamatic on the cop.

  33. OldBiddie

    It's not going to stop - a Guardian reporter vid over stop and search just days after police were reminded street photography is no offence.

    It's all security theatre and utter nonsense and it's not going to stop until the revolution and we take the power back.

  34. JaitcH

    Dumb bloody British Bobbies

    Why haven't these uniformed fools figured that people taking pictures in plain view are the most unlikely 'suspects'.

    If someone wanted to acquire images the most effective way is to do it surreptitiously and by using different techniques it is possible to get excellent images from inconspicuous locations.

    Good way to drive away tourists, too, as they love taking pictures.

  35. Real Ale is Best

    And another:

    This time the Police recognised the woman as a photojournalist, but still insisted that she might be a terrorist. And illegally searched her camera.

    I wonder if they will be disciplined this time. *

    * Not counting chickens.

  36. Sureo

    My wife and I ...

    were in London in 2005, and I have a picture of her right in front of the Parliament building with two police just behind, apparently uninterested. Sorry to hear that things have gone so badly downhill since then. Next time I go should I leave my camera home?

  37. Charles Manning

    Theft of Images

    When you copy an image of the Tower etc and send it to people then those people no longer need to come to London to see the Tower etc.

    This deprives the London tourism industry of income.

    Shame on you photographers!

  38. Peter Gray

    Not just Australia

    Here in New Zealand the Police are pretty good - they're happy to pose with tourists for photos, not threaten them with lockup time....

  39. Anonymous Coward

    "Chief Constable Andy Trotter"

    Hah, you couldn't make this stuff up?

    That's all.

    4 x 6 prints of this post will be available in the foyer after the show.

  40. David S 1


    ...manner in which the people stopped get threatened and entrapped into committing arrestable offences by the police:

    1. Photographer is stopped and questioned, being asked to give name, show permit, show the police the photos they have been taking, etc, just for the reason that they are taking photos. They may be challenged by "security people" or PCSOs.

    2. There is no reasonable suspicion that they are engaged in terrorist activity, and so there is no reason for the stopped person to answer the questions. This is particularly the case if the person stopped them is a security person or a PCSO.

    3. Person stopped objects and argues about it.

    4. If it is not a policeman/policewomen who has stopped the person so far, the police are alerted, and we go back to step 1, with the police asking the questions this time round. If it is a policeman/policewoman, carry onto step 5.

    5. For not complying with the request, stopped person is then threatened with being charged with a different offence (eg, obstruction) which would be easier to pin on them.

    6. Stopped person has now been entrapped intop apparently committing this new offence which has resulted entirely from the police's unreasonable request to begin with.

    It is useless expecting government officials to say something and the police to modify their behaviour: the police will just carry on until there are real consequences arising from entrapment activities and over-reaction to stopping people from taking photographs. Photographers will have to risk arrest, and having their DNA taken, etc, leading to failing future CRB checks and so on in order to try to mount successful legal challenges to all this that are not guaranteed to succeed unless there is specific protection under law to taking photos, which I don't see happening. The problem is compounded by the risk that, if journalists are at the forefront of this, then a "quick fix" will be carried out (as in the case of showing a journalist card when being asked to show a non-existent "permit") which will protect journalists and not other members of the public.

  41. Dennis O'Neill

    It's not just terror, though

    Photographers are prevented form taking pix because of the old "PEEDOOO!!" cry too, you know. For years, I happliy took photos of my lad playing football with his (relentlessly rubbish) team and the only ones who complained were the parents of kids whose pics I HADN'T managed to get ("What's wrong with my boy?" was the moan.)

    Since he quit, however, I have seen at least two games at the local public park where a photographer was told, by a game's referee of all people, that he had to remove himself from the park or the ref would refuse to allow the game to continue. Even though it is perfectly clear that you can take photos of whoever you like in a public place,* and despite the fact that there are no rules/recommendations form the FA about taking pix of football matches taking place in a public park, either, at an amateur level.

    *I'm well aware that you can't make commercial gain from photos that rely on an identifiable member of the public without getting a model release form signed. This was a teenager from, presumably, the local school carrying out one of his GCSE/A level projects, at a guess; the other was just some bloke out with his camera

  42. Andrew Woodvine

    Camera shy Liverpool police

    My experience of filming in Liverpool at the weekend:

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    A bit of a weird one, I think from London again, this time with a PCSO:

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