RCMP should not be requesting the media protect officer’s safety

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News Editor

Monday, July 8 2013

As seen in a story from elsewhere in the Sounder, the Nanaimo RCMP were called in to assist BC ambulance staff with a patient who had become ‘unruly’ while being transported on the ferry to Nanaimo for treatment. 

In the background of this incident is that for whatever reason, a certain Sounder editor found himself in the Nanaimo terminal parking lot while this was all going on.

Said editor started snapping shots of the events. One RCMP officer asked why the photos were being taken. After the editor identified himself as a member of the Gabriola newspaper media, he was requested to not publish any photos of said officer. The Mountie said he does work for the RCMP which requires his identity to be protected and does not want his photo being published while wearing an RCMP uniform.

We at the Sounder do not have an issue working with the RCMP in situations like this. We have no desire to put an RCMP member’s safety at risk.

However, this particular situation was not a great place for the officer to be in while making this request.

1. It was the Canada Day long weekend. 5 pm the night before Canada Day. In the Nanaimo Harbour Ferry Terminal going to Gabriola Island. Just how many factors could be put in place to ensure there will be camera-toting relatives, friends, family and visitors put together? Smartphones anyone?

2. How many of those same people would likely be tweeting direct to the internet before anyone has a chance to ask them to not publish photos of a particular individual?

Also, what would have happened if the person taking the photos wasn’t an accredited journalist? It’s not like anyone else is prevented from snapping photos in a public place.

3. Anytime more than two RCMP vehicles hit the loading lanes of the Gabriola ferry, news hounds start to get curious. Consider two summers ago we had a murder followed by a 16-hour manhunt happen on the island. Having at least six cars show up to the terminal is a sure-fire way to get the cameras rolling.

4. If an identity is supposed to be kept a secret, why does the RCMP have this officer running around on a long weekend in uniform? Maybe the detachment in Nanaimo is short-staffed and just needed to get as many bodies there as possible.

For those curious, don’t get out the spyglass and try to figure out who is who in the photo on page 6. We respected the officer’s request and did not publish any photos he was in.

But we would encourage the RCMP to perhaps do a little due diligence on their own, and not make it the media’s job to protect the police.