Photos & Political Campaigns (177A/22)
What is West Midlands Police current policy on officers taking photos to be used in political campaigns for politicians.
Please find as follows, the latest guidance issued to our officers and staff in relation to the pre-election period (Purdah):
The pre-election publicity period restricts what can and cannot be said or issued by the force.
It’s important to remember that the guidance also covers posts from official police social media accounts.
While there’s no automatic restriction that applies to personal social media accounts, officers and staff should remain cautious about mentioning their employer and be mindful of any posts that may breach the guidance.
The guidance is designed to ensure fairness during an election. It may be breached if it could be interpreted that something was said or done by the force, officers or staff that might be seen to influence the election and specifically the voting.
Unfortunately there are no hard and fast rules during an election and it can be interpreted in different ways by different people so the advice is: if in doubt don’t do it.
These are the guidelines officers and staff should follow:
- Don’t do anything which could call into question the political neutrality of WMP, such as liking or retweeting a candidate.
- You should not offer political opinions nor make statements that do not reflect WMP policy.
- On matters of operational activity, staff are entitled to offer a policing viewpoint or correct factual inaccuracies, taking care not to openly criticise the policies of a political party or candidate, which could be deemed to be politically biased, e.g. it would not be appropriate to comment on a candidate’s claims that their party would increase police funding, were they elected.
- Candidates may seek opportunities to be photographed/filmed with police officers. While it is generally acceptable, officers should not engage in ‘staged’ photos with candidates, such as handshaking etc. You cannot prevent general filming or photography.
- Proposed visits to police stations and neighbourhood policing bases that are intended purely to generate publicity for a candidate are not acceptable.
- In the run-up to an election, candidates may forward complaints or enquiries on behalf of members of the public. It is acceptable to respond, but officers should be aware that any engagement may be used for campaigning purposes. Staff should seek advice from a supervisor.
- Political statements and press releases may present WMP in a negative light. The decision whether or not to rebut specific claims will be made on a case by case basis by the Corporate Communications Department. However, the guiding principle will be not to respond directly unless claims are based on factually incorrect information.
- Staff must not display any badge or other representation which demonstrates any political allegiance while on duty.
Purdah does not affect an individual employee’s right to support or campaign for a candidate outside working hours unless they are in a politically-restricted post, a police officer or special. However, a staff member or PCSO is still expected to uphold the appropriate standard of professional behaviour.
It is a criminal offence for a police officer to “by word, message, writing or in any other manner, endeavour to persuade any person to give, or dissuade any person from giving, his or her vote, whether as an elector or as proxy at an election”.
While the criminal offence is limited to warranted officers, police staff including PCSOs should operate within the same guidelines.