To follow on from this post –
Though Kent Police have not put anything in writing to me they have written to Amateur Photographer Magazine and the British Journal of Photography. Here’s a copy of the letter. The text is very guarded carefully considered.
I write in regards to your article concerning the arrest of amateur photographer Alex Turner.
The police have a number of powers that they are able to use in relation to stop and search which have to be assessed according to the type of incident being dealt with. With regard to this specific incident there was a need to establish the identity of the man in question, whose behaviour had caused concern and who, when asked, had refused to provide his details. Once officers had established that no offences had been committed Mr Turner was allowed on his way.
However following a complaint made by Mr Turner, the circumstances of this incident were voluntarily referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, who agreed that Kent Police’s Professional Standards department should investigate.
We are in contact with Mr Turner and will keep him updated as to the findings of the investigation.
However I wish to make absolutely clear that my officers were placed in a situation where I truly believe the vast majority of the public would expect them to find out what the circumstances were, not least when Mr Turner’s behaviour had generated suspicion with local council employees and he had refused to reveal his identity.
Police in Medway are here to ensure everyone’s safety and on occasions we have to ask members of the public to provide personal details and explain their actions, particularly when we have reports of them acting suspiciously and they refuse to say who they are.
Whilst policing powers always have to be applied professionally and proportionately, police officers and Police Community Support Officers have a responsibility to use their powers to identify who they are talking to and clarify if their behaviour is unlawful or not.
I do note that recorded crime in Medway has fallen again. A lot of the reason for this is we stop and identify people who are reported as acting suspiciously. Sir Robert Peel was doing this when the police service stated in 1829 and it remains a key tactic we still use to ensure Medway becomes an even safer place to live, work and socialise.
Chief Superintendent Steve Corbishley
Area Commander for Medway
The phrase ‘…not least when Mr Turner’s behaviour had generated suspicion with local council employees and he had refused to reveal his identity’, indicates to me that Chief Superintendent Steve Corbishley considers that sometimes, depending on what I’m not sure, people taking pictures openly in Chatham High Street merit suspicion.
Furthermore though the council employees were unable or unwilling to say under what authority or legislation they required me to reveal my identity, the response of Chief Superintendent Steve Corbishley indicates to me that he thinks I should have done so regardless.
With an attitude like that the point of a legislative process seems a bit redundant.