Police have been criticised after attempting to prevent a weekly newspaper journalist tweeting news updates from the scene of a rooftop drama.
Bedfordshire on Sunday news editor Keeley Knowles was passing Bedford Hospital earlier this month when she spotted a man perched on top of one of the hospital buildings.
She swiftly broke the story on the paper’s website and started tweeting from the scene about what was happening.
But Keeley was then approached by a PCSO who took her to a police officer who made it clear he wanted her to stop tweeting, before telling her that she would be “spoken to in due course”.
Said Keele: “I was doing my job providing updates, nothing ill-informed, just responding to people asking what was going on.
“I was made to feel as if it was my tweets that were encouraging people to come down and that the police were having some ‘operational problems’.
“There were a number of police cars and fire engines – the helicopter was also up for a long time – people didn’t need us to tell them something was going on.”
The incident began shortly before 8pm and ended with a 16-year-old being detained at around 11pm.
BoS editor Chris Gill said: “Tweeting is part and parcel of modern media, and we act responsibly in a professional capacity at all times.
“We are unhappy anyone should try to prevent a reporter doing their job and will continue to supply our 3,000 plus @bedfordnews followers with updates.”
Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, added: “What is sad is that police officers do increasingly seem to think that they have powers which would normally only be associated with totalitarian states.
“Let’s hope that the police remind all their new recruits and existing officers that the media, particularly local papers, play a very important part in keeping the public informed and they should be helped not hindered.”
A spokeswoman for Bedfordshire Police told the paper that officers were given a talk about the media in their first few weeks of training.
She said: “We have a good working relationship with the local media and it is unfortunate that in this instance your reporter has had a negative experience.
“We know that when dealing with highly sensitive situations it can become extremely stressful. However, we would expect all police officers and staff to be courteous and polite when speaking with journalists and the general public.
“We are in the process of tracing the officer involved to explain the protocol that should be followed when dealing with journalists at operational cordons. We hope this situation will not reoccur.”