A senior police officer has accused a regional daily of “inaccurate and misleading” reporting about his force’s treatment of homeless people.
Chief Supt Nev Kemp, Sussex Police commander for the city of Brighton & Hove, has hit out at Brighton-based daily The Argus, claiming he was given no right of reply to a story about the force’s policy on tackling beggars, in which it reported that a homeles man had been brought to court for asking for 10p.
Chief Supt Kemp has now made public an email he sent to Argus editor Mike Gilson criticising the newspaper’s coverage of the issue in recent weeks.
In the email, which was posted on Twitter, he states that The Argus terming plain clothes officers as being “undercover” is “wholly inaccurate” and claims the force had not been given right of reply.
In the initial piece, published on 8 February, The Argus reported police were being sent out to catch homeless people begging in Brighton, with more than one arrested every week.
It further claimed rough sleepers were being criminalised by Sussex Police operations to arrest and prosecute those living on the streets and desperate for small change.
The day afterward, The Argus published a follow-up in which Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas said she would be urging police chiefs to change their policy.
Chief Supt Kemp, left, said in his email to Mike: “I was disappointed to see the articles in The Argus regarding our approach to begging. The headline ‘Undercover Police targeting beggars’ is inaccurate and misleading.
“The subsequent article does nothing to correct this but perpetuates this inaccuracy. Sussex Police officers, focussing on the street community, have worked in plain clothes for more than a decade, describing them as ‘undercover’ is wholly inaccurate.
“Sussex Police was given no right of reply and so could not point out that our approach or ‘policy’ has not changed for years and is carefully considered in tandem with charities and other organisations who work with the street community in the city.
“Both of the Argus articles, unfairly, suggested the opposite.
“Sussex Police is a caring organisation, committed to keeping people safe and when we don’t get things right – as I said to you when we met – I am quite prepared to be challenged and welcomed this opportunity.
“As an organisation Sussex Police is committed to being transparent and so had you given us the opportunity to explain our approach to begging, you could have had a much more informative and accurate series of articles.”
Sussex Police has since released a statement on its website defending the way it deals with Brighton’s homeless community. Mike has declined to comment on the issue.
In July last year, Sussex police and crime commissioner Kety Bourne claimed her force was “compeltely transparent” after The Argus revealed its readers had been kept in the dark about 785 crimes committed during a fortnight-long period in March, following a Freedom of Information request.