“Who’s a Journalist, Who isn’t?”

Commander Broadhurst addresses the NUJ Photographers Conference
Commander Broadhurst addresses the NUJ Photographers Conference

On Monday Commander Broadhurst, head of public order at the Metropolitan Police spoke at the NUJ Photographers Conference and with all the events over the past few years he received a rather frosty response from those there.

The Commander was heckled off the platform as he began to question the legitimacy of those carrying press cards. He asked in his speech, probably rhetorically but received some very pointed answers:

I don’t know what vetting system there is for holding an NUJ card. Can anybody who has a camera apply for an NUJ card? […] How do we manage who’s doing what? legitimately or otherwise.

– Commander Broadhurst, Metropolitan Police

He went on to question the motives of journalists working in public order situations and it quickly descended into a shouting match between the conference and the Commander. Probably sensing he had dug himself deep enough into a hole he left the platform and went into answering questions.

It’s well worth listening to both the Commanders speech and the discussion afterwards as it probably explains a lot towards the treatment of press photographers by police over the last few years. If the man in charge of public order policing doesn’t know how the UK Press Card works it’s little surprise so few police respect it.

The Commanders Speech.

Discussion with Commander Broadhurst.

One of the arguments put forward by pro CCTV bodies is that “if you’ve nothing to hide, why should you worry about CCTV?”

One could now turn that argument back on the Police. “If you’ve nothing to hide, why should you worry about press photographers?”


Thanks for recording this – I don’t expect things to get better – There seems to be a vain hope that things will filter down to the street level officers who will in any event be able to use one of the get-out clauses like “heat of the moment” blah etc. and continue to do what they want.

When an officer of such senior rank is “in control” of a testosterone crazed bunch of thugs and so evidently out of touch with the rest of society it is a bit of a long shot that the memo he sends to his subordinates will have any effect at all.

This is all rather bizarre, because it is as though so-called journalists expect 1: to be treated with more care and respect than others with cameras, and 2: that NUJ members and other journalists suffer from chronic collective memory loss.

In the first instance we all have an equal right to photograph anything we like in public places, and that is a fundamental and basic right, not dependent on being the member of a union or, indeed a policeman.

Second photography of cameramen and photographers by the police themselves dates back to the beginning of the 20th Century, so the protests and the paranoia exhibited here simply display a lack of nous by these photographers.

If I or my grandad or my daughter want to photograph anything and anyone in public they have the same rights journalists do. Journalists are a pretty thick-skinned bunch, completely insensitive to the needs and wishes of others and are generally dispised by members of the public rather more than the police are.

This seperation from everyday reality is displayed by the greedy need to expect PREFERENTIAL treatment over the rest of us- that is, all mankind, rather a lot of people.

The police fear photographers for reasons which are obvious when they themselves break the law and cause GBH to fellow citizens. Such policemen are subject to arrest and prosecution as we all are; but it never saeems to occur to anyone to notice how close to celebrities photographers get. Much closer than the average assassin.

Party conferences for example give anyone with equipment there the means to kill everyone on the podium and the utter lack of searches and security checks used to amaze me years ago, and I doubt it has improved: and I did not ever need to identify myself.

In public demonstrations celebrity speakers (i.e. Joanna Lumley etc as well as politicians) ruin the risk of being assaulted and/or killed by any nutter in the crowd, and whilst I have every sympathy with cameramen merely doing their job (and needlessly there duplicating better TV and other photographic coverage), these guys do need to remember that unless they are actually prepared to document events in a way that is of lasting social value, and not just to peddle papers; it is understandable that the police get fed up with the menace posed to the public and to celebrities by “bone fide” photographers, most of whom are money-grubbing no-talent hacks whos consciousness never goes beyond the sex/violence axis of evil, and whose behaviour serves as a deterrent to any alien wishing to appear in public, or in private anywhere at all.

If a policeman assaults me I get him/her charged with assault. If he/she deletes my work I charge him/her with theft. It IS theft, and if the images lost can reasonably be claimed to be of commercial and or documentary/aesthetic/social value, then, quite oviously the vandalism involved is tantamount to the destruction of the Mona Lisa or Van Gogh’s sunflowers. Certainly even the worst excesses of press photography equal a Damien Hurst in value, so I would suggest you realise that the value of your work is more than the average bobby’s salary, (before expenses) and make damn sure they compensate accordingly.

As to the various laws cited as ways and means of enabling the police to break the law with impunity, well, they have always existed anyway! and the police themselves are the first to admit that they are a nonsense.

Photographing Broadhurst is illegal, don’t ya know. Publishing photographs of a police operation taken outside Downing Street could very well have caused that operation to fail putting lives at risk, but “you” and Google published them, didn’t you. See? The police quite legitimately could prosecute that photographer AND Google, and sucessfully and why not? That senior officer was sacked because a man put money before public safety, and not because he had himself done anything wrong.