An official report into policing during the G20 protests has found that police officers had failed to recognise the Press Card and has called for greater collaborations between the press and police authorities.
In its Adapting to Protest report, released today, the Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC) finds that the police’s treatment of the media was inadequate. In interviews with eight press members and following a written submission by the National Union of Journalists, the HMIC reports that ‘it was generally felt though that having a spokesperson available some three miles from the scene was not helpful and that there could have been a more proactive police engagement on the ground on 01 April 2009.’
The report continues: ‘A more facilitative approach would also be more consistent with police practice in dealing with other significant incidents. Journalists suggested that opportunities to interview front line officers to obtain real time commentaries would clarify the policing perspective and assist public understanding of events. A suggestion was also made that there may be the potential to embed individuals with police units and commanders as is done with the military. It was considered that the police grew more and more unresponsive as negative reports increased and it was commented that the MPS withdrew into a “bunker”.’
The HMIC also criticised the inability of police officers to recognise photographers’ press cards. ‘Observations were made on the inability to move freely in and out of cordons, with some front line officers failing to recognise the Press Card,’ the report reads. ‘Experiences on this matter varied, but journalists were unanimous in the belief that persistence was required due to an inconsistent application of this policy across cordons.’
However, police commanders quizzed by the HMIC revealed frustrations about the media coverage ‘of the challenge the police faced on 01 and 02 April. Initial coverage of the event was positive but by 05 April was becoming more critical. This intensified following the emergence of images relating to the death of Ian Tomlinson.’
Journalists and broadcasters also provided views as to how communication between police and the media could be strengthened. ‘Ideas suggested include: an improved police event website; embedding journalists with frontline police; police briefing at the scene; and making frontline officers experience available after the event(s).’
However, photographers remain sceptical that the report will change police’s relations with the media. Over the past two years, organisations such as the British Press Photographers’ Association and the NUJ have tried to gain access to rank-and-file officers at the Metropolitan Police training facilities, but their requests have been denied or indefinitely delayed.