A crack squad of London cops -- three cars and a riot van -- converged on a famous architectural photographer who was taking a picture of Christopher Wren's 300 year old Christ Church spire. Grant Smith, the photographer, refused to tell a Bank of America security guard what he was doing (he wasn't on B of A property) and so the guard called in the police. When the police arrived, Smith was searched and questioned under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act.
Last week, the Association of Chief Police Officers issued a stern warning to British police officers to stop using Section 44 to harass photographers, saying, "Photographers should be left alone to get on with what they are doing. If an officer is suspicious of them for some reason they can just go up to them and have a chat with them - use old-fashioned policing skills to be frank - rather than using these powers, which we don't want to over-use at all."
Apparently, the message hasn't been received.
City of London police said its response to Smith had been proportionate. "When questioned by officers, the man declined to give an explanation and he was therefore informed that in light of the concerns of security staff and in the absence of an explanation, he would be searched under the Terrorism Act," said a spokesman. "After the man's bag was searched, he explained he was a freelance photographer taking photos of buildings. Once this explanation was received there was no further action."
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