In the wake of the Joes River Tragedy there was a somewhat disturbing article in the press today
Rawle Culbard said he had shot photographs of bodies from an area which was not cordoned off. He added that between the time he arrived on the scene at about 12:50 p.m. and the time he left at about 3 p.m., he did not cross any “caution lines”.
“I told him I understood that he was doing his job but explained that I, too, was doing mine. At that point, he got angry and grabbed the camera from around my neck which jerked my neck forward. At first I put up resistance,” Culbard said, adding that other officers intervened.
Culbard said that the officer, who identified himself as Senior Superintendent Leonard Broomes, handed the camera to an officer in plain clothes and instructed him to delete all photos taken of the scene.
Culbard said: “When I asked his name, Broomes said to me that ‘you all always asking for names as if something will come out of it’. He then instructed another officer to take my name and address, which I gave.”
The heavy handed nature of the intervention is disturbing coming on the heels of the arrest of journalists at the hospital (ironically during another mass casualty operation) I believe at the time the reason given was that the Journalists presented an impediment to doctors in the operation. If the photographer was outside of the cordon, I don’t see how that can apply in this case.
There would seem to be the need for a clear policy on how the police/journalist interactions should take place in these events. It is unrealistic to believe that the press will not be present at a mass casualty situation. It is unrealistic to believe that they will not try to cover the event. While the victims have a right to dignity and privacy, there is the issue of freedom of the press and the right of the public to know. With the lack of a consistent policy on this matter, we will continue to see stories like this in the media.
In the meantime we will await the outcome of the Nation’s complaint.