A former Scotland Yard press officer has warned that the UK model of “policing by consent” is threatened by the current “almost total freeze” in relations with the media.
Over the last 18 months at least 59 journalists have been arrested as a result of the various police investigations stemming from the hacking scandal.
Tim Morris, who now works for Linstock Communications, told Press Gazette: “There has been an almost total freeze in relations between police and the media and it is hardly surprising given the situation where a high number of people on both sides have been arrested over allegations that relate to contact with each other.”
He said that the arrest of two senior police officers in recent months for contact with journalists where no money changed hands sent out a message to police officers that “if you talk to journalists you have to be very careful and you could end up under investigation or arrested”.
Writing on the blog of Daily Mail journalist Stephen Wright he said: “In the 1990s the relationship between the police and the media was as close as it ever had been. Up until 1992 there was a licensed bar inside New Scotland Yard, called the Tank, where police officers and reporters were encouraged to drink together. In the press conference room, next to the Press Bureau, all the major newspapers had dedicated phone lines for their exclusive use.
“The benefits of a good working relationship between the police and the media were taken as read. When the Tank was closed in favour of a gym it was a reflection of a new morality rather than an act designed to separate police and journalists.”
He told Press Gazette: “In this country you have a model of policing by consent – the police need the consent and cooperation of the public to do their job. There has to be ongoing dialogue between police and the media to enable them to talk to the public and get their cooperation.”