I am pleased to report that earlier this week John Rogers and I attended our inaugural meeting with the Chief Inspector of the Pan London Task Force whose responsibilities include the Metropolitan Police Territorial Support Group (TSG) Marine Support Unit, Dog Section, Air Support Unit and Mounted Branch. Two other officers also attended the meeting from the same command. Those officers a SGT and PC are responsible for Training and Professional Standards. Our meeting exceeded the 90 minutes allocated time by nearly 45 minutes. Both John and I clearly explained what we do as Photojournalists/Press Photographers and police also explained what their role is.
The most astonishing fact that came out of the meeting was during the first 10 minutes when I presented them with copies of the MPS Media Guidelines. There was a look of utter surprise on their faces! I picked up on this and asked if they had seen them before? And to both the surprise and shock of both of us they freely admitted that they had not! This was discussed in detail and they acknowledged that they were made aware of them and that during briefings ahead of large events, demos and other jobs mention of the guidelines and the ability to facilitate Bona Fide News gatherers should be facilitated wherever possible. This fact is made clear to all officers present. (I have been to these briefings and can confirm this is correct) Police voiced their concern over the issue of Press Cards and feel that on occasion they are possibly issued too freely and possibly not to professional Bona Fide News gatherers.
In addition due to the numerous issuing Gate Keepers it is not always easy, in a fast moving volatile situation, to identify them straight away save for the word PRESS on the card. They also voiced concerns that if they themselves wish to make a complaint about the behavior, attitude and demeanor of a Press Card Holder where and how can they make this complaint? That is a good point well made by police. We all know as Bona Fide News gatherers and indeed members of the public we are able to make a complaint (s) against police and indeed know where and to do it which they accept and indeed have no problem with (This I can also verify) In fact the Chief Inspector made it abundantly clear that if any of us see a police officer NOT wearing shoulder ID Epaulettes/Name Badges we must complain.
Both John and myself have been invited back again in the near future to make a presentation to TSG officers in a wider forum.
The meeting was constructive, informative, educational and indeed a door opener for more educational dialogue which will clearly give police a much better understanding of what it is we do as professional Photojournalists/Photographers, as well as us learning something more about policing.
This I am sure through a process of discussion and education will enable us to do our jobs easier. I have now received feedback from police who stated that they felt the meeting was worthwhile and look forward to our forthcoming presentation and future meetings. Personally I have noticed a positive change of attitude for the better from police on the street. Thanks to John Rogers for his input on the day, which was invaluable.