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COPS FILMED PUBLIC "WITH BEST INTENTIONS"

29-06-2009

West Midlands Police have insisted they filmed a public meeting in Birmingham with "the best of intentions" following previous alleged racist incidents.

As we revealed earlier, the quarterly gathering of Billesley ward committee - which allows members of the public to quiz councillors about local issues - was videoed by cops without any explanation, prompting fears of Big Brother surveillance of local politics.

There was a suggestion - hotly denied - that the BNP had been stirring up trouble in the area by suggesting a mosque would be built at the local community centre.

Now Lloyd House has issued the following statement: "Following alleged racist incidents at a previous meeting police were asked by senior Birmingham city councillors to film the debate.

"West Midlands Police agreed to this request and did so with the best of intentions.

"Prior to the filming we should have explained to the audience the reason for our presence and that we had been specifically asked to attend and film the meeting.

"Given the nature of some of the comments made at the previous meeting and the potential for conflict, there was clear justification for police to attend.

"However, we certainly do not seek to influence any public meeting or to discourage people from speaking honestly and openly.

"The filming of public events is never undertaken lightly. There always needs to be a clear policing purpose behind doing so, based upon assessments of intelligence and community concerns."

We welcome the speed of the police response and trust this heralds a new era of openness following the recent appointment of Chris Sims as Chief Constable - but one or two troubling questions remain.

For one thing, we have been told by regular attenders of Billesley ward meetings who are not BNP members that they are not aware of any history of racist incidents; this doesn't mean that they never took place, of course, but it does make you wonder when and where they happened.

We are also puzzled by the continued silence of Billesley councillor and Cabinet Member for Transport Len Gregory, despite our best efforts to contact him.

Does this indicate that there could be more to this story than meets the eye?

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