Tag Archives: West Midlands Police

28 Apr

Photographers v Police 1-1 (after 1st leg)

Photographers are not a happy bunch. If they’re not having their pictures used online without getting credit or being replaced in the festival photo pit by young bloggers waving iPhones, they’re being persecuted by the police and accused of being terrorists.

Authority 2.0 (Birmingham City University, 28 April, 2010) was a fascinating event, organised by the MA Social Media students to investigate how the UK’s police forces should be using social media, AND to discuss some of the very real problems today’s photographers face at the hands of officers in this age of terrorist suspicion.

For me the panel discussion, 2 photographers (@KarenStrunks and Christian Payne (aka @Documentally) and 2 representatives from West Midlands Police (CI Mark Payne Force CID and Inspector Ian Grundy, Counter Terrorism Unit), was the highlight of the day by sparking a series of interesting debates about freedom of access, how the police handle the public and training of their officers.

The discussion started with a, quite frankly, horrifying video recorded by an anonymous photographer as he was subject to some very unecessary harrassment, first by a Community Support Officer, and then by a police officer, as he tried to take pictures in the street. Accused of being “suspicious” and being ordered to give his details, there was mention of “terrorism” and an eventual arrest, which ended in release 8 hours later.

If this is as commonplace as it seems, then I am right behind photographers in their fight for acceptance among the police force – and, give them their due, the officers present at the event were just as keen to see a closer relationship. Unfortunately though, these senior members of the force are as likely to have to deal with a suspicous photographer on the beat, as they are parking in Livery Stret Car Park in Birmingham and NOT getting a ticket (in joke, sorry).

Instead, the message that people with cameras in the street are NOT necessarily scoping out a terrorist target, needs to be filtered down to the officers on the street, the Community Support teams and the private security firms – all of whom have been accused of bothering snappers in the past.

Karen Strunks also highlighted that current poster campaigns asking the public to be vigilant and report anything suspicious has turned everyone into a wannabe Jack Bauer eager to challenge even the most innocent of activities.

But surely terrorists ARE walking the streets armed with SLR’s sussing out the best angle for attack? In reality, probably not.

West Midlands Police admit they now use Google Earth and Street View to check out a property before a raid, instead of sending officers or the helicopter – it’s easier, and a hell of a lot cheaper. So why would your common-or-garden terrorist be any different?

It seem, however, that officers on the streets are sadly behind the times, and sometimes out of touch with modern developments. And is it any wonder? Many forces refuse to allow even their communications department onto Twitter, and bobbies on the beat do not have access to the internet whilst they are out and about (although West Midlands Police are looking into Android phones to solve this problem). Particular mention, however, to CI Mark Payne who DOES have an official Twitter account, which he uses for both professional, and personal tweets.

The discussion also revealed some more interesting developments being investigated by the force, including a website where the public can upload pictures to help them solve crimes.

However, it seems we’re still a way off yet from the “police online” levels reached by the force in Beijing who, as we heard during an earlier presentation. They have designed a cartoon officer who moves across your computer screen with a friendly warning should you venture into forbidden web territory – and judging by China’s current attitude towards content – the poor guy must be exhausted.

26 Feb

Birmingham Social Media Cafe #bsmc 26th Feb

I’ve missed the last few Birmingham Social Media Cafes. This has been a mix of oversleeping (once) and being slightly put off by being cornered by estate agents wanting advice on using Twitter at past meetups.

This week, however, I decided to go along, get stuck in and learn the art of polite mingling!

It was a very different social media cafe, and a great one too! Paul Bradshaw (@paulbradshaw) brought along a load of his BA Online Journalism students who didn’t take long to get stuck into things. Bear with guys, it gets easier, trust me!

It was hosted by @dandavies, representing the Meshed Media, and kindly supplying the coffee!!

Also there, 2 women from West Midlands Police marketing department, keen to find out more about social media and how it can help them connect with the public.(I tapped them up for potential live blogging and events coverage, fingers crossed something comes of it!)

I also had a great Apple-themed chat with @jigar_patel  – now I started it by gushing about my new Iphone, but he’s inspired me to purchase some kind of MacIbookpro type thing … maybe in the summer!

Also had a good old chat with Jennifer from the Social Media MA!

Great – for me, BSMC has got it’s mojo back!

All content (c) Caroline Beavon 2020