A weekly newspaper editor has hit out at “contemptuous” police officers who told one of her reporters to delete photographs of a primary school evacuation.
Kent Messenger trainee Joshua Coupe had to get rid of the images on his phone after a lengthy remonstration with three members of the Kent Police force, conducted as a crowd of parents looked on.
Joshua had shown officers his press card after arriving at the scene at Barming Primary School, in Maidstone, on Monday, where an anonymous bomb threat phoned in to the school led to the evacuation of 400 children.
He said he was approached by three officers who demanded he deleted the images from his phone after he began taking pictures of the police operation.
Joshua refused and continued to argue his case, insisting he had every right to photograph the unfolding drama and adding none of the images identified any of the children involved.
However, he eventually complied when one officer said they suspected he may have been taking the photos for his own personal use.
Said Joshua: “I’d never compromise anyone’s safety and I’m always happy to abide by reasonable requests, but there was no need for this intimidating behaviour.”
“One officer in particular was extremely obstructive and made reporting incredibly difficult.
“Anxious parents were approaching me for details as there was a lack of information and they weren’t allowed to see their children.”
Messenger editor Denise Eaton added: “I genuinely don’t understand why, in situations such as this, authorities fail to seize the opportunity to work in co-operation with the press rather than treat us in such a contemptuous and combative manner.”
A Kent Police spokesman said: “The incident was a difficult scenario for officers to manage, which involved securing the safety of a large number of children and adults and moving them from the location.
“More than one news organisation attended the scene but officers only had cause to address the actions of one reporter.
“After school staff raised concerns to the reporter about him photographing children, an officer acted as a mediator and asked the reporter if he would consider deleting some of the photos. The reporter indicated he was happy to do this.
“We routinely give advice to officers on how to facilitate reporters at scenes of incidents, and our media policy states that reporters are within their rights to record activity at scenes.”