Kent Police on the need to manage the media

When Kent Police chief Michael Fuller attempted to cover-up his force’s shameful handling of last year’s Climate Camp near the Kingsnorth power station on the Hoo peninsula, furious reaction from protesters, journalists and civil liberties campaigners forced the chief constable into releasing a critical report by the National Policing Improvement Agency. Fuller had objected to so strongly to the content of this report that the document was not even released to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Having read the NPIA report, I can’t say that I’ve learned anything new. Unlike the mildly-worded South Yorkshire Police review of Operation Oasis, the NPIA report makes limited reference to police handling of media workers covering the Climate Camp. But far from addressing journalists’ concerns, the NPIA recommendations are restricted to a few short comments about how to manage (or rather manipulate) reporters in the field.

Take, for example, the following extract from a Q&A contained in Appendix A to the NPIA report…

“Kent Police media services staff need a pro-active operational role in order to coordinate and manage media expectations, without exposing police officers to interview and challenge ‘in the field’ by intrusive reporters and camera crews.”

I dare say that all interactions between journalists and police officers in the field are regarded by the latter as “intrusive”. As for “manag[ing] media expectations”, it is certainly not for the police to define my expectations as a journalist, and neither is it legitimate for police managers to prevent me and my colleagues from working freely in the field during political protests. Inconvenient though it may be to the police, journalists will not tolerate being forced to operate through the filter of corporate press offices.