The Western Gazette’s chief reporter for Dorset has claimed police inspectors are boycotting him because they do not like his stories.
Shane Dean has been told that his stories heighten the fear of crime at a time when the county force is trying to reduce it. He believes a police team in Weymouth has been compiling a dossier of his articles.
Editor Martin Heal has met the chief press officer for Dorset Police, Mike Maber, and will see Superintendant Malcolm Palmer today (Friday).
Two months ago Dean was due to go out with one of the inspectors on his Saturday night beat. He was stunned to be telephoned beforehand and told the appointment was off and that the inspector would not be talking to him again. The police had been trying to build bridges with the community, he was told, and his stories were ruining their efforts.
Directed to the police press office, he was told by Maber that three inspectors had independently said they would not deal with him again.
"Since then, staff at the press office have been difficult and arrogant, sometimes failing to return calls for some eight days," Dean claimed. "The police do not like us taking to the streets, homes and shops to find out what the public feel about what is going on in their town. We covered the reaction to a recent crimewave in the county town and they are not happy."
Dean said one story the newspaper covered was about a man taking photographs of children in the streets in two towns over several months.
"We published the fears of mothers in the area. The police said there was no news value in the story and tried to stop me doing it," he said.
Heal told Press Gazette: "I support Dean in all he does because he is out and about trying to voice people’s concerns. Getting a response from the police has not been easy for him." The Friday talks would, Heal hoped, find a way forward. He had a very friendly but very frank talk with Maber, he acknowledged.
"There is a government directive which says we must try to quell fear of crime. One way of doing that is by pretending it doesn’t exist – I’m not saying that’s what the police do but that’s the way it seems. We are a campaigning and aggressive newspaper and we take up people’s problems and try to do something about them."
Maber, who would not confirm his meeting with Heal or Dean’s claims, said he did not want to comment until after Friday’s meeting.
By Jean Morgan