I've just got in from work, supping on a monster G&T and not sure whether to be angry or to be happy.
I received a call at midday from the police constable who had left his card on my doormat. I was quickly grabbing a sandwich (in the office today) and asked him to call back after 4 on my office number (mobile phones are not generally permitted in the office). He confirmed it was to close an inquiry down. I had a chance to chat to my solicitor mate again, who stressed that i should find out as much as possible.
He rang me back at 4.30, identified himself and confirmed that I was not under caution. Here is an semi-verbatim account based on scribbled notes - pausing between each statement to write down the gist of what was said (our calls are recorded and I advised him of that, but I have to make a formal request via CDO for the recording). He apologised for the delay, was friendly and polite, as was I.
" We received a report of someone acting suspiciously with surveillance equipment around the market square, who was aggressive to a security officer and a member of our force when approached. However, after detailed investigation, we will not be taking the matter forward. As I am sure you appreciate, we have to take these reports seriously."
"Can I ask who reported this?"
"I'm afraid I can't say."
"Was it a member of the public?"
"Was it the Safer Streets security guard"
[pause] "I really can't say."
"Why did you think it was me?"
"You were identified by a member of our Force driving a car out of The Lanes car park. From the vehicle registration number, we determined your home address."
"No, one of our staff saw you."
"Was it the PCSO?"
"In what way was I acting suspiciously?"
"You were reported to have surveillance equipment and were taking photos of buildings which have CCTV cameras on them. And of the market stalls, where there are people."
"I had a 65 year old German film camera, which looks like any other old camera. Most mobile phones can massively outperform my camera. Why was it thought I had surveillance equipment - and when did it become suspicious to take photos of 18th and 19th century buildings - or of people in public?"
"Well, we've reviewed the incident and we are satisfied that it was not suspicious."
"Tell me about the alleged aggression."
"We've reviewed body-worn camera footage and satisfied that there was a misunderstanding."
"You mean when the PCSO accused me of being an Auditor and a Terrorist?"
"We have had a number of incidents recently where members of the public have filmed our staff in an invasive and threatening manner. As I said, this incident has been investigated and we have identified learnings." [A term I absolutely detest]
"Why did the security guard and the PCSO try to stop me filming in public when I wasn't even filming them? Your own Force website has a statement about photography in public."
"Yes, you're right, but they were right to challenge you in the current climate. As I said, learnings have been identified. Regarding the activities of security guard, that's a matter for the Council."
That's the guts of it. I didn't get an apology, but it seems that the security guard from the 'Safer Streets Initiative' reported me to the PCSO after I ignored him when he told me photography in public was not allowed. The PCSO then bigged up the incident after I snubbed her very aggressive challenge, stating that I was acting suspiciously and using 'surveillance equipment' (whatever that is). To add a cherry of the cake, she then accused me of being aggressive (which was clearly not backed up by the body cam). She then must have followed me for the better part of an hour, to see me get in my car (in a multi-story car park some distance from the market square) and leave.
Added to that, the police then visited my house to follow up enquiries - but it must have been before they had reviewed CCTV and the bodycam. I'm really not sure whether to be relieved or angry that a huge amount of police time (and my angst) was wasted unnecessarily because of an over-zealous, lying and frankly bitchy PCSO. I will follow up with a complaint to the P&CC and to the Borough Council about the security guard (who is, I've learned, 'accredited' by the Constabulary to deal with parking, litter and excess noise issues).
I can't fault the Constable who investigated the incident and spoke with me. He was professional, courteous and (I sense) a bit embarrassed by the activities of the PCSO - and the Force - which were wholly disproportionate.
Could be worse one photographer got arrested as plod felt threatened because the photographer was too tall
Being too tall in a public place is a bit scary for plod