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UK Police Officer Threatens Photographer with ‘Living Hell,’ Now Under Investigation

In the most recent installment of police officer vs. photographer, a UK man who began taking pictures near the scene of a car accident was approached by an irate officer who yelled and cursed at him, confiscated his camera and threatened to arrest him and make his life a “living hell.”

The incident took place on November 17th in Gloucester, UK, and has been brought to the public’s attention because the man in question secretly recorded much of the altercation and uploaded the resulting video to YouTube.

The officer had been in the final stages of cleaning up what had been a fatal car accident on a road in Churchdown — note: there were no injured persons on the scene, nor did the photographer photograph anything he would describe as ‘insensitive’ — when he noticed the man taking pictures and began berating him.

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By the time the video starts, the police officer has calmed down somewhat, however he still confiscates the man’s camera and refuses to give it back unless he erases all of the photographs he has taken. He proceeds to claim that the entire closed road is his crime scene (even though there were many pedestrians walking much closer to the scene than the photographer and there was no caution tape) and therefore not public land, and that if he was a member of the press he still would have had to come up to him, prove his press affiliation and ask permission.

When the man continues to argue the officer claims that he’s ‘lucky’ he didn’t get knocked out, after which he threatens to arrest the man and make his life ‘a living hell.’

Now that the incident has received sufficient media attention, the police officer is currently under investigation. Obviously this is only one side of the story, and it’s possible that the photographer was indeed in the wrong and standing somewhere he shouldn’t, but officer still (at the very least) acted in an unprofessional manner.

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“I have only seen the public facing evidence, but it appears the officer swore at a member of the public, follows that up by saying he was lucky not to have been assaulted by the police, is threatened with arrest, mistreatment and a remand in custody,” county police and crime commissioner Martin Surl told the BBC. “I appreciate the work of the police can be very challenging, but no matter what the situation they should deal with the public in a civil and responsible manner at all times.”

Additionally, the The National Union of Journalists has also immediately come out in support of the photographer, saying the man was doing nothing wrong and that it is “not the job of police officers to go around threatening members of the public whom they are supposed to protect.”

A spokesman tells the BBC that the officer in question is still currently serving on front-line duty, although the misconduct investigation that is underway might soon change that.

What’s your take? Was the photographer in the wrong here, or is this another case of a police officer not understanding photographer’s rights? Let us know in the comments down below.


 
  • https://twitter.com/adamhowardcross Adam Cross

    of course it was Gloucester, of course it was Churchdown. Gloucestershire police are awful

  • captainkimo

    All that time harassing a photographer. Doesn’t the officer have a job to do?

  • Gav

    That police office is a thug. The photographer was do nothing illegal. Simple abuse of power

  • http://richardault.com/ Richard

    Barring some unforeseen circumstance where the photographer was being a bad actor, the police are totally in the wrong here. This cop seemingly had an axe to grind. He could of just gone home and beat his dog, instead he will face at a minimum some suspension without pay or something akin.

  • Ryan Napolitano

    I can understand protecting the identity for the sake of family notification. There is a decency to according that, but I am frustrated too with his bureaucratic attitude and “I am the law” logic. In the letter of the law, according to what he said (Im American, not a Brit) he is in the right, but when looking at it arbitrarily, both can be a bit at fault here. The police certainly never appreciate “Im not at liberty to say…” as an answer.

  • Alex

    I don’t justify the way the police officer behaved at all. Do bear in mind kind fellow commentators however, that we have no idea exactly what happened at the fatal car accident the police officer had just attended. And as a human being (the same as us) he may not have been in a particular level minded or headed state just after. To simply say he is a police officer and should know better is to forget he is human too. If I’d just witnessed, had to clean up, be a part of in any way, a horrific fatal accident, whether part of my job or not, would be somewhat effected by it for a short potentially irrational period afterwards. Particularly if I was a gloucestershire police officer who isn’t fond of photography in the first place.

  • Alex

    My point being, it’s very easy for us to judge anyone’s character with a juicy 10 minute youtube clip, without knowing what was in the other 20.

  • Fuzztographer

    It doesn’t matter what our take is. The man was standing on public land and fully within his rights to be taking photos. There’s no way he could possibly have interfered with an investigation by taking pictures from such a distance. The police approached HIM and instigated the altercation.

    It’s more than obvious from the cop’s tone, inflection and words that he is an authoritarian thug undeserving of his position. An investigation that will result in two weeks paid vacation is not sufficient. He should be fired without severance or pension and charged with theft for taking the camera.

  • Fuzztographer

    How someone handles themselves in the worst of situations is a truer test character than any other.

  • Derpin

    People are all up in arms because of rather ill-portrayed video shot from one (shoddy) perspective. It is all set up to make it seem like the photographer was legal and not obstructing justice, but that is because he made the video…for people to suggest that the policeman is an authoritarian and “deserves to be fired without severance” is absolutely LAUGHABLE and hilariously unnecessary. i enjoy my photography on public grounds, sure. But I don’t feel and entitlement to go about and shoot without consideration of others first. Frankly, it makes a lot of sense that the officer at hand would be up in arms if a photographer was in fact on the scene without proper access and making a fuss because “he feels it is illegal”. It is highly possible for the photographer to alter images and it makes sense that the officer was protecting both the integrity of the scene and the force. Don’t be bandwagon freedom fighter and just call police pigs and whatnot for something stupid like this.

  • Stuart Duffy

    Clearly the officer is abusing his power as a police officer and this can’t be the only time he has done this.

    Every photographer should know their rights.

    Clearly he’s bullying and threatening whilst he should be spending this time dealing with an accident.

    Luckily he taped this or this officer would have denied all of this… or did he?

  • Mark

    He’s paid a good salary to behave professionally in every situation. By the end he had clamed down, but swearing and threatening are never acceptable. If the photographer has broken the law, he should enforce it, if he hasn’t, leave him alone and process the accident. If the policeman is not sure if the photographer is in breach of the law, he should clarify the legal situation BEFORE he threatens a member of the public.

  • harumph

    All police are authoritarian. By definition.

    Here in America, we look at stories like these and think, “At least the cop didn’t shoot him.” Be thankful for small mercies.

  • dbltapp

    The cops all know the rules – about photography and all the other areas of law they routinely abuse. Problem is they’re seldom held accountable for their illegal actions…

  • N1ght Crawler

    The police officer is probably shocked from the accident where someone died. Handle the shock badly and when the photographer shows up taking pictures he “snaps”.
    I am in no way defending the police officer, what he is doing is wrong. But it could be a explanation why he does it.

  • Burnin Biomass

    Yea, it doesn’t look good, but we are only getting one side of this. I’ll wait until I hear more.

    I would have avoided all the guff by deleting my images. I have the software that recalls deleted images from a camera card, so deleting from the camera means nothing.

  • Daniel Price

    Ha ha. Officer clearly hasn’t heard of Recuva!

  • http://www.woodyoneal.com/ Woody ONeal

    If the officer had grounds to arrest him, he would have done so within a few moments.

    Instead, he debates with the photog for 10+ minutes because he was simply bullying.

  • Tone

    Articles like this are eroding the power of the police, the officer raised valid points, this is why the police can’t get real scum off the street. Bring back Gene Hunt!

  • Guest

    I know those cops. They used to be my students and they failed miserably in Photography 101.

  • Lars Groeger

    A person died and you have nothing better to do, than make some photos, just for the sake of it ? Maybe you should be a bit more reasonable and realize that one can get very angry if a passenger has nothing better to do than making some snaps after a fatal accident. But nooo, Mr. SuperCalm and Iknowmyrights needs to make his point clear over and over again. …. In the moment the officier said that someone died….you should just gave up…but nooooo you wanna see this officer go down right ? ….. my opinion : I think the Photographer did nothing illegal BUT he did not do right. And a bit more cooperation would have been good for the whole situation.

  • Colinlyne

    As a retired newspaper photographer, I feel well positioned to make comment. The photographer was correct by stating that it was a public place, but he was NOT correct in saying that he had the right to take photographs within a crime scene! The arrogance of the photographer, who, I might add, was typical of the “I am a journalist” brigade, was unacceptable, and he should have respectfully approached the officer before taking photographs! The police officer even agreed to all the photographer’s photographs and so this could have been done in the beginning to prevent the argument. THE PHOTOGRAPHER WAS COMPLETELY WRONG. With a better, and more polite attitude, this altercation would have been prevented. Just who do you think you are Mr. Photographer…..you are only a photographer, doing nothing for the community.

  • Daniel Price

    I agree with most of what your saying. However, he did provided us with this very debate and this awful example of policing…

  • JJ

    I am totally against being stopped for no reason but this guy is giving photographers a bad name. All he is doing is baiting a police officer so he can stand there and feel like he can assert some rights and get it on film for his 5 mins of fame – obviously this makes him feel big in some way, it’s very sad.

    The police officer has valid points and was polite – it’s pretty obvious that you can’t shoot there, even if it’s not the letter of the law, have some common decency and respect for the people involved. Would you like photographers taking photos if your child or mother was lying there injured? No.

    The Sergeant was pretty fair. The photographer was just a dick in return, refusing to answer basic questions and being generally a provocative sod.

  • JJ

    Well said.

    I doubt very much if he was a professional photographer given the shakey voice he seemed to be very nervous.

    I’d imagine he is just a blogger with a camera trying to get famous.

    These kinds of videos sometimes come out of the USA and are shocking. This guy has tried to do the same, but forgets he is in the UK and a small town bobby. Lol.

    Epic Fail.

  • Gerry

    Are you suggesting the photographer should have helped clear up !

    Several years ago when I was working as a news photographer we had a local crash investigation officer who would invite us on to the scenes once victims had been removed as he hoped that publicity would a) persuade people to respect the dangers of our roads b) help find potential witnesses c) raise the profile of accident blackspots.

    Sometimes other officers objected but as he also pointed out it saved confrontation between officers at the scene and media trying to do their job of reporting incidents.

    I accept that fatal accidents can be traumatic even for trained police officers and other emergency staff however it is unfair to criticise the photographer for remaining calm and knowing his rights.

    It is also not the police officers job to decide what should and shouldn’t be photographed on public land especially as it appears it was in effect a junction with car parts on the road. Does he treat members of the public photographing scenes in the same way ? He may not agree with it but would he have done the same to a member of the public standing in Vauxhall on the 16 January last year ? Or Woolwich on the 22 May ? Or Glasgow on the 29th November ? Would he treat the media covering those events the same way as this photographer ? How does he deal with his senior officers requesting footage and images of events ? For those saying “but this isn’t a major incident” how does he know ?

    Personally I find the solicitors advert looking for people who were injured in the Glasgow helicopter crash on Google more distasteful than images of car parts.

    And my sympathies to the victims family.

  • Gerry

    How was he to know that somebody had died ? You only know because the
    officer said so and after the fact. Whether a person photographed the
    aftermath of the incident or not would not affect whether the story of a
    fatal road accident was reported. In a local community it is a news
    story and will be published and these days probably be on the local
    newspapers website quicker than the photographer could get his pictures
    to them.

    As for “I doubt very much if he was a professional
    photographer given the shakey voice he seemed to be very nervous.” Why
    does this mean he isn’t a professional photographer. There are many
    people who are not confrontational and so would be nervous in a similar
    position. The rights he asserted were his rights. If arrested would you
    not ask to be allowed to call a lawyer just because a police officer
    tells you that you are not allowed to. Of course not.

    Are you
    saying the officer isn’t a police officer because he didn’t know or had
    forgotten that to ask a person to delete images is a contravention of
    the Association of Chief Police Officers guidelines as is taking a
    camera from a photographer (the latter also being deemed assault in the
    eyes of the law as per a case successfully brought against Surrey Police several
    years ago in a situation in which most press photographers believed the photographer had overstepped the mark)

    Knowing your rights and having a police officer ignore
    them as was happening in this instance (the officers own words where he
    tells the photographer the only way the situation will be resolved by
    the deletion of the images) can be intimidating.

    In any case when
    has being a member of the Press Association or the Gloucester Citizen
    or Echo been a requirement to be a photographer and thus a relevance as
    to whether a person can take images. Both are commercial interests and
    there is no law for a photographer to be a member of a professional body
    or carry ID in this country. As for they would have gone to him and
    asked, I’m not so sure. I feel he has just bandied about some media names (you do not become a member of the Press Association) in an attempt to make himself sound authoritative.

    I worked for seven years as a newspaper photographer
    and would probably have approached the scene in the same way. It would
    be natural for the road to be closed off to allow for the removal of the
    vehicle and to sweep it to prevent debris causing punctures and damage
    to other road vehicles. You’d take a long shot if the car was on the transporter because by the time you’ve got closer it may have been taken away. That public was clearly being allowed to walk
    along the pavement suggesting this was the reason rather than for any
    investigative purpose (those on the pavement could have picked up items
    from the side of the road, kicked them along the pavement and under
    hedges, stepped off the pavement onto items of importance) The lack of
    an officer to stop people entering such an important and sensitive area
    as to warrant the deletion of images and the threat of arrest again
    suggests the road was closed for purposes other than investigative.

    Lastly
    I would take the view that the officers had better things to do than
    supervise a photographer working from an area that the public had access
    to. Given the opportunity I would introduce myself but under the
    circumstances as detailed above I wouldn’t have made that my first
    priority. Acting that way does not give photographers a bad name. I
    doubt a member of the public with a mobile phone would have. Or been
    stopped.

    There are many things that we may consider distasteful but do they warrant even the actions of the officer as far as even just the video shows. I would suggest that if any bodies had been removed and the photographer was not on the road a better approach would have been for the officer to tell him that he should have introduced himself and listened if any of the above reasons were given. For both it would have been less time consuming and started building a working relationship.

    Over my years I have developed working relationships with many people. Not all started off well. However we developed a mutual respect as we both learned the problems and pressures both faced to the extent we often found ways to help each other.

  • JJ

    How was he to have know?

    Well if someone is lying there critically injured it doesn’t take a leap of faith. So Common sense / experience/ human decency? Take your pick.

    It’s pretty obvious that there was an accident, and the presence of police would suggest it’s being investigated, so would constitute a crime scene, or an accident investigation. In which case photography will need to be OKed by the officer in charge; at the very least the ‘photographer’ should have approached the situation with more compassion and without the massive chip on his shoulder.

    His rights are irrelevant to be honest; there is a time to be humane and not be a dick, for one to use common sense; and this is a classic example of someone being a dick just so they can feel big by asserting his rights to take photos of a dying lady.

    Why bate the officer otherwise? I’ve been in this situation and will comply as and where told, even if it isn’t the letter of the law. What the policeman requested is perfectly reasonable.

    The fact that the ‘photographer’ (and I use the term very loosely) got his phone out to record this just shows his true intentions all along. If he really wanted to get a shot of the dying lady so bad (for whatever perverse reason he had) he would have been nicer to the officer and would have been allowed access (assuming he was press which I think is pretty much impossible given the way he acted).

    This is just someone with a dslr looking for a argument for the sake of asserting some right and didn’t do anyone any favours in this sad situation; especially not genuine professional photographers or street shooters.

    A complete waste of everyones time, including his.

  • Fearless British Citizen

    That Police officer is in the wrong, and abused his power as well as took advantage of a “clueless photographer”.

    A public highway is a public highway and closing the road does not make it a crime scene. There may have been a fatality, but there was no indication of a suspicious death or that entire area would be cordoned off and screened for forensics so no one could walk, see, or take pictures of it.

    If you look the car was already being loaded onto a recovery truck which meant that there were no suspicious circumstances and that they had cleared the scene before the truck was even called for.

    Also in the video, you can see from the photographs, that police officer spotted him and came for him. Probably paranoid that he himself was being photographed.

    That policeman should be fired and then arrested for threatening behaviour, and made to pay for forcing a member of the general public to destroy his personal property as well as loss of earnings.

    Ridiculous that a law abiding citizen is treated with such disrespect, and they wonder why they (the police) are hated by so many.

  • Guest

    The photographer hid his identity but not that of the police officer, he’d clearly had a stressful time dealing with the accident, the photographer should have taken the slap on the wrist and forgotten about it, this has been blown out of proportion with oh one side of the story.

  • Hector

    The policeman was absolutely wrong but the photographer was doing something that was morally questionable. Someone had just died on the scene and the pictures were only of marginal news value and of absolutely no artistic value. In that context, I understand the view of anyone who would challenge a photographer who seems to be little more than a ghoul who was abusing press freedoms.

  • YeahThoughtSo

    Can you please cite the legal statutes and case history that show he did not have a right to take pictures on public land?

  • LuckyCharm

    I’m with the policeman on this one..How and why is the guy recording this..He must have been in trouble with the police before.. Suddenly he’s recording the conversation..Eh planned???

  • Courtney Navey

    Just another jerk cop flexing his muscle because he’s paranoid around a camera. I’ve been harassed by cops just for having my camera with me and walking through a public place to get to my car. It’s ridiculous how paranoid some cops can be…and slightly annoying…okay really annoying.

  • Mike

    Just be glad this was in the UK and not the USA or the photographer would have been beaten to a pulp and sitting in some jail.

  • Andy

    When most people become policemen they have no idea how often they’ll be dealing with drunk, angry naked males. After several years of being exposed to that, yes, I imagine that my temper would occasionally get a bit short. However, unless the photographer was nude and drunk, this appears uncalled for.

  • Toby Madrigal

    Having seen this incident reported in The Times, Wednesday, as a photographer I was very angry at the bobby. However, now I have read the very sober views of 36 people from far and wide, I have taken a different view. I had failed to consider the impact of such a traumatic incident on the police officer. You have all presented a wide and differing view and it’s really made me think about my own attitudes.
    I commend you all and thank you for your debate. My own view of the police is that they do a necessary, important and sometimes quite dangerous job. All we as Council Tax layers expect is that they do that job properly. However, as I now realise, I have failed to take account of how much trauma and anguish it causes them.

  • Frodo

    That could be an explanation, but many times just the act of taking pictures in their presence provokes the exact same response or worse. I think we just have to face the fact that a great deal of cops are simply bullies with badges.

  • Struggs

    Having been a press photographer for over 23 years this is such a familiar and unfortunately common situation to find yourself in. It is without doubt, absolutely everything to do with the training and experience of the particular officer who is in charge at the scene of an RTA or other serious incident. I’ve been arrested, handcuffed, De-arrested. I’ve been pulled off walls, physically assaulted by police officers, sworn at… you name, it happened! Answer me this question has anyone on this forum who is a professional press photographer turned up at a RTA and been Sworn at, assaulted or generally intimidated by member of the paramedic crew or the firefighters who attend these things as well? I suspect the answer is no! The reason is that they are professional enough and are just getting on with their job and not worrying about what’s going on around them unless of course it directly affects the safety of them the person they’re dealing with at the scene or the people who are making the incursion into the accident/crime scene. I always loved to remind particular offices who decided to go above and beyond the law and when they started to quote law I’d enjoy correcting them with the facts! That just piss*ed them off even more. ;D Of course after so many years experience I have learnt as I got older to try and avoid confrontation and i always better to smile and trying to talk your way out the situation if they are having a bad day then of course they have the ability to take it out on you which will spoil what you’re trying to do

  • daveG

    The officer in question should be suspended from duty for his verbal assault at said photographer, him threatening to “knock him out” is not only a threat of violence, but as an officer of the law there is no reasonable reason why he should use physical force against the photographer. Police are only allowed to be physical when under threat in self defence or why trying to restrain a suspect, if he were to touch the photographer then he would be liable for assault.

  • Aniruddh Ravipati

    This is a classic case of a guy with a power complex…. Doesn’t really have any power but abuses his so that he can feel like a big deal

  • Victor Biro

    As a photojournalist that covers a great deal of spot news, and regularly deals with police, I can say without reservation that you have no idea what you’re talking about. Although rare, there are police constables that have a problem with news media, and it would seem that this guy is one of them. Their attitude is that although it is perfectly legal to take pictures of anything in a public place, that doesn’t mean I have to make it easy. They use their ability to arrest at a tool to obstruct media until there is nothing to shoot. That is exactly the strategy this copper used. BTW, you’re probably right: he will get nothing more than a reprimand, and he will continue doing the same thing.

  • Victor Biro

    I think it is unfair to generalise about police. I deal with a lot of them at scenes just like this one, and the issue here is the professionalism of this, individual, constable.

  • Victor Biro

    You are making some assumptions about the photographer’s intentions that are patently unfair.

    First, you assume that he wanted a shot of the victim, and there is nothing to suggest that there was even an opportunity for him to do this.

    Second, you assume that he was baiting the constable, but everything that I saw in this video indicates that he did nothing other than take pictures from across the street, and in fact the constable didn’t disagree with him on that. This is also supported by the fact that he didn’t delete any of the shots he had taken.

    The reality of shooting news is that there are some police officers that don’t like the news media, and will use any pretext to enter into a conflict with them. Having said that, I agree that there are some news media that seem to look for opportunities for conflict, but I don’t think that is the case here.

  • Trevor Dennis

    There’s an interesting take on this in the PP post ‘How I Lost over 100
    pictures’ dated April 11. He makes the point that you could delete the
    images in front of the police, then go home and use a file recovery
    utility to get them all back again. Now that is a nice idea.

  • glueonhair

    This Scottish Numpty bullying, Police Thug, had no right to do or say any of the things he did. Half of what he said was absolute rubbish, the other half was that jock was trying the old blind the guy with science ploy, you always know when the voice goes up half an octave. The “Officer” and i really hesitate to use that word, was out of his depth, did not know the law, and they guy should have called his bluff about arrest and making his life a misery etc. I don’t understand why on earth this has been tolerated by the powers that be, as the incident was totally lawless on the part of law enforcement, rather the Policeman was having a bad day and thought he’d once again, as he’d obviously got away with it before, hector and frighten and bully the camera guy. These police are the ones that are hated most of all, they are the one that pulled the legs off spiders at school, were hated by ALL of their peers, and have not a friend in the world, no-one that would help them out in a hurry anyway. I KNOW the cop went on his way well satisfied that he’d once again bullied his way through the situation, and that even IF he was interviewed by his superiors, he’d lie and get away with it, at the most a light rap on the knuckles. For me it was so typically sickening, and we have seen it so many times before. Police state? of course it is and getting worse, as soon they will be issued with jackboots and geheimstaats politzei badges. Shudder!