Blurry Faces & Shady Deals

Chief Superintendent Bill Tillbrook, head of the CO19 firearms unit
Chief Superint. Bill Tillbrook of the CO19 firearms unit, not seen here.

Last Wednesday a group of 12 photographers, headed up by Nigel Howard of the Evening Standard, went to a meeting with senior officers from the Met Police CO19 firearms unit

Press Gazette has the full story here And quite frankly it’s a shocking tale. Apparently an agreement was made where picture desks would be issued guidelines from the Met Police to blur or pixellate the faces of armed officers.

The current guidelines that were drawn up by the NUJ and BPPA took two years negotiation with the Met police and since early 2007 were adopted nationally by ACPO.

So for Nigel Howard to go a meeting that no professional photographers body was represented at and make a unilateral agreement that photo desks and editors should pixellate the faces of armed officers is a serious affront to press freedom.

The press need to be able to hold the police to account, especially armed officers. The stories of Scott Hornby and Alan Lodge seem pertinent here. Officers should be identifiable and accountable to the public. 

Thankfully the NUJ and BPPA have come out strongly against this ‘deal':

There are already clear guidelines detailing how relations between the press and the police should be conducted. Those guidelines have been agreed between ACPO, the NUJ and other news organisations. We would have serious concerns if they were to be undermined by unilateral action by a specific branch of the police force.

Jeremy Dear, General Secretary – NUJ

It is unacceptable for the police to discuss, informally, with a group of independent photographers, matters such as this and them to then be reported as some form of agreement. 

Jeff Moore, Chairman – BPPA

Hopefully that will put a nail in this agreement and ward off future attempts by the police or rogue photographers trying to cut backroom deals.