IN THE SPRING of 2009 a protest in London, England, at the time of an international meeting resulted in the death of a man in the crowd. Later, it emerged that he was not part of the demonstration but had merely been walking home from work. Quite quickly, some video footage appeared showing him being struck and knocked to the ground by a policeman. Afew days later another short piece of grainy video appeared, showing a policeman first shoving a woman in the back with his hand and then striking her across the back of her legs with his baton. Quite clearly, this is a story about several different themes. First, it is about concerns over police behaviour; it is also a story about concerns over world economic conditions and the policies of world leaders. But it is also a news story, something that became an information item. As such it has a life, it has to be described and labelled in some way that allows it to be stored and then found again later. That, if you like, is about the management of the item, but we can also ask questions about the nature of the item. What exactly was being videoed? Did the person with the camera focus on just part of a larger scene? There is no sound with the video footage, so we do not know what the woman and the policeman said to one another – we do not have a complete picture, so we lack information about this event.
The policeman wears a coat with no identifying badge or number: it would be impossible to use the footage to isolate which policeman hit the woman, so immediately we want further information to complete our knowledge of the event. Should we get that? Is this selective footage the kind of thing that, contrary to the general interests of public order, dents confidence in the police, so much that we might want to suppress such video clips?