A chief constable has questioned the decision by broadcasters to beam live TV coverage of the last hours of gunman Raoul Moat, saying: “It cannot be right.”
Peter Fahy, chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, said the advent of rolling 24-hour news has had a “profound effect” on policing, with commanding officers often spending more than half their time dealing with the media on high-profile cases.
He argued it “cannot be right” when an officer commanding an incident like the Moat stand-off had to consider how the police’s actions may look as if they were a movie director.
Writing on his blog on the force’s website, he said such saturation coverage was “more of an issue” than the controversy focused on the Facebook tribute page to Moat.
Moat, 37, is thought to have shot himself following a six-hour stand-off in the Northumberland town of Rothbury in July.
Moat went on the run when he shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend Sam Stobbart in Birtley, Gateshead, after killing her new lover Chris Brown.
The day after he blinded unarmed PC David Rathband by shooting him in the face on the outskirts of Newcastle.
He then declared war on police and went into hiding for a week before he was cornered at the River Coquet in Rothbury.
On the incident, Fahy wrote: “The case involving Raoul Moat in Northumbria was the top news story for a number of days and the publicity then went on to Facebook.
“The advent of 24-hour news has had a profound effect on policing.
Particular cases grab the public imagination and are then played out in the media in detail round the clock. In such a case well over 50 per cent of the time of the officer commanding the per cent incident will probably be spent handling the media, he said..
“This includes monitoring and reacting to what the media are saying about the case and things like the statements being made by witnesses in front of the cameras. The murder of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Cambridgeshire was such a case.
“GMP sent firearms officers to Northumbria to help with the search for Raoul Moat and this shows how forces can work together when required.
“They work to an abiding philosophy of using the minimum of force and trying to take an armed suspect alive, if at all possible – not something which applies in most of the rest of the world.”
“The media have a legitimate interest in police operations. It cannot be right however that the last hours of a man’s life are broadcast on live television with members of his family looking on.
“It cannot be right that an officer commanding such an incident has to consider how it might look on television as if he/she was a film director.
“I think this is more of an issue than the controversy about the Facebook page.
“There have always been some who have hero-worshipped criminals whether it is Ned Kelly, Al Capone or Billy the Kid. There has always been a section of society who hate the police as the symbol of what they see as an unfair society or just because they get in the way of their criminal business. Facebook is just a new avenue for communicating this.”