Calls to remove secret police anti-corruption guidelines on officer’s links to journalists | UK News

Calls have been made to scrap secret police guidelines against corruption, which appear to treat journalists the same as criminals and extremists.

The hidden section of the College of Policing (CoP) guidelines could risk “equating the media profession with wrongdoing and corruption” that journalists seek to uncover, two organizations have warned.

In a letter to the CoP’s chief executive, the Society of Editors and the Crime Reporters Association (CRA) said the advisory threatened to ‘damage the public’s perception of the media’ and required ‘urgent review’. .

Under the Authorized Professional Practice (APP) guidelines, journalists have been listed in the “declarable associations” section, which means officers must declare if they are associated with one of their police forces.

The list, which is issued to all police forces in England and Wales, also includes criminals, extremists, political parties and activist groups.

Although parts of the guidance are posted online, this specific section is restricted and therefore not open to public scrutiny.

“The media plays a vital role in informing the public about the work of the police and in addition to bringing offenders to justice and helping to keep communities safe, media scrutiny promotes transparency and helps understand the workings police forces across the UK,” the letter continues. .

He added that by including journalists in the guidelines, it gives “the wrong impression that journalists seek to bribe or deceive” people.

It comes after the Metropolitan Police came under fire from the industry watchdog for failing to require officers to disclose associations in line with national guidelines.

“A disturbing precedent”

Earlier this year, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Police and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) apologized after appearing to equate journalists with extremist groups in findings about corruption at the Met.

Its report recommended that police disclose associations with “journalists and extremist groups”.

Despite the apology, the recommendation remained unchanged and its implementation would be under scrutiny, industry executives said, warning that if it decided to adopt the suggestion, it would “set a worrying precedent. “.

A spokeswoman for HMICFRS said: “We recognize the vital role journalists play in our democracy, including holding police forces to account.

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“We make recommendations to police forces, taking into account relevant authorized professional practices, where applicable.”

“A successful working relationship between the police service and journalists is essential to the legitimacy of policing in the UK,” the letter from the Society of Editors and ARC states.

“By continuing to require police and staff to list associations with journalists under the banner of anti-corruption efforts, the policy simply continues to associate the two with wrongdoing from which all seek to distance themselves.”

The guidance was also criticized by campaign group Index, which described media freedom as “a bedrock of our democracy” and warned that seeing journalists as a “threat rather than an asset” is something the we see in “authoritarian regimes”. “.

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The Met Police Commissioner announced

“Advice should not get in the way of healthy relationships”

Steve Hartshorn, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), said the body “is not aware of the forces requiring individual officers to disclose their associations with journalists”.

He added that there is a “strong need for all forces to work in cooperation with journalists” to promote police work, explain police problems and ensure public confidence.

The College of Policing explained that journalists have an “important role” in holding forces to account and supporting services with reporting, but police are expected to have policies in place to “protect sensitive information”.

“This includes the obligation to declare any potential conflict of interest in order to be open and transparent, as well as to mitigate any risks that may arise,” a spokesperson said.

“Advice given to police forces should not interfere with healthy police-media relations. We are working with the National Council of Chief Constables and others to review the advice and will listen very carefully to any issues raised.”

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