Photographers are increasingly being viewed as potential criminals by police and stopped from doing their work, according to the Bureau of Freelance Photographers. In many cases, police are using stop and search powers without reasonable cause to prevent photographers – both amateur and professional – from taking pictures.
An increasing number of members have sough help from the BFP after facing what they consider harassment. One member, a semi-professional, was stopped from taking pictures in Ipswich town centre of Christmas lights being turned on. The policewoman involved even demanded to know whether the photographer had a licence to use his camera! He was made to erase images and instructed to complete an Encounter and stop/Search Record.
Another member claims he is constantly moved on when innocently taking pictures in London. “Putting up a tripod merely compounds the so-called offence,” he says.
This despite best practice guidelines on improving relations between the police and photographers, drawn up by the Association of Police Officers and photographers' organisations.
“But guidelines or no guidelines,” says John Tracy of the Bureau of Freelance Photographers, “the simple fact is the police do not have the right, except in exceptional circumstances, to stop people from taking pictures in public places.”