Within the UK there is a growing trend of members of the public and citizen-focused journalists turning up at police stations and public spaces to film the interaction with the staff and the police.
They do these with the intention to use their legal right of being able to take photographs and take video footage to prove that photography is not a crime.
The thing is if you are a police officer you have no legal powers just because you don’t agree with what is happening. But we know that auditors will behave in a way to get a reaction.
But not all police officers understand this concept resulting in some auditors being arrested, interviewed, and released without charge while others have had better interactions and been allowed to finish what they are doing.
The thing is what these officers who have fallen foul to the auditors fail to notice is that they are the star of the show and really they should be doing things a little better.
Officers should really be careful with how they interact with members of the public especially those who have a camera pointing at them.
What are Auditors?
Auditors within the UK are increasing which have resulted in some good and bad responses from police officers within the United Kingdom.
An Auditor is a member of the public who attends police stations, public, civil services, Ministry of Defence and Coronavirus testing sites with the purpose of capturing staff on camera which is prerecorded and edited or live-streamed to social media.
Auditors have been a common practice in the United States for a number of years and now there is an increasing and developing community within the UK which have huge amounts of followers and subscribers.
What do Auditors focus on?
Naturally filming a police station or key public building will bring concern and most likely result in a police response. We’d be worried otherwise and the auditors know what they are doing will draw suspicions and response, and when this response happens is really when the auditing begins.
The auditor will use security concerns surrounding the filming of staff and premises, alongside the limited powers that are able to prevent the action from happening.
Some auditors will have the intention of provoking staff but they will be within the law but the aim result is get some potentially embarrassing reactions with the intention of asserting that staff are overstepping legal boundaries.
Those who carry out audits may be well versed in their own rights and will often cite legislation during their interactions with staff and they will point out that they are under CCTV and police surveillance especially if police officers are recording on their own cameras.
Are Auditors legally allowed to film in public?
It is legal to take photographs and film within a public place. Sometimes staff, the public and the police forget this. But because they do not like it does not mean they can stop it.
The police have not powers to stop this activity meaning members of the public and press should not be prevented from doing so.
Police Officers should be cooperating with the media or amateur photographers as these play a vital role in helping them identify criminals. Police must also be aware that the increasing trend of citizen journalism is growing and it now features modern life meaning police officers are now being photographed and filmed more than ever.
Police Officers should not undermine the public confidence in policing by unnecessarily restricting photography within a public place. Police officers have no legal power to request a recorded image be deleted and there are no powers to delete or confiscate any footage without a court order.
How should Police Officers respond to Auditors?
Police officers should always remain calm and professional when responding to a situation where a member of the public or press is recording within a public place. Officers should be mindful that auditors are looking looking for an inappropriate response by the police or to be unlawfully detained because it makes great footage.
It’s best that police officers start with a professional greeting such as “How’s it going today” rather than “why are you filming the police station and staff car park” because you’ll already be off on the wrong foot which will gain the response the auditor is looking for.
It’s always important that with the absent reasonable suspicion, there are no policing powers and it’s just best to allow them to continue filming because the sooner the police interaction is over the sooner their footage will end, Because you the officers will be the star of the footage no one else.
So it’s best to avoid any coercive, demanding or aggressive questioning while remembering it is legal to film anything that can be seen from a public space. Even those private cars belonging to yourself and other officers.
During the interaction, officers will be constantly asked if they are being detained and for what basis is for their detention.
With the Absent reasonable suspicion the most appropriate response would be that they are not being detained, they are free to leave at any time and are more than welcome and free to continue with their activities.
Is there a legal requirement for Auditors to give their details?
Police officers are allowed to attempt to obtain the personal details of an Auditor but they must be informed that there is no legal requirement to do so.
The only exception for this would be if there are reasonable suspicion an offence has taken place.
Officers should not use anti terror legislation to get round this or accuse the auditor of being involved in burglary because they’ll only be left red faces and play into the hands of the auditors.
What powers to the police have to obtain auditors details?
Police have the powers if they feel the auditor may represent a genuine security risk or the personal information of the staff to be misused. Officers using these powers should be clear and confident of their powers and must clearly articulate them when they are being used, The camera or phone must bot be seized unless the officer deems them as evidential.
Police Officers often use Section 43 of the Terrorism act 2000 too much, it is often overly used to give the officers a legal power to obtain the details of the auditor. This should only be a last resort and can only be legally used when reasonable suspicion exists and other remedies such as the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2014 should be considered.
Police officers could also give consideration to using powers under s136 Mental Health Act if it was felt the individual was suffering from acute mental ill health and in immediate need of care and control. It is suggested to seek the advice of a clinician in advance to ascertain if the individual is known to local mental health services and receiving care or treatment.