SR1, the crack celebrity home-raiding unit of the Metropolitan Police, a joint venture with the BBC, is buckling under the strain of savage cuts, warns commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe.
The situation is so bad that some raids are being filmed from just two or three camera angles. Many BBC news teams have been told they can’t re-shoot scenes, even when the director has thought of a dramatic new take on the action. Fantastic opportunities to display a celebrity’s personal effects are being spurned, in what’s been described as a ‘tragic waste of dramatic licence’. One scene, in which detectives carry evidence from a celebrity’s home, was ruined by a shortage of funds. Directors who asked for raiding to be adjourned, until clearer plastic boxes could be bought, were stunned to be told there was ‘no budget for a second day’s shooting’.
It’s not just London that’s affected. In another case, a director working on the Cliff Richard home-raid project – a joint BBC-South Yorkshire police production – was stunned when a once accommodating police location director suddenly stopped co-operating. For no apparent logical reason, money aside, the director was told she couldn’t attempt a Martin Scorcese-style long tracking shot. The BBC helicopter that was circling the popular singer’s house was – according to official accounts – waking neighbours, frightening children and causing accidents on nearby roads. “Everyone knows the real reason,” said a BBC insider, “savage cuts to public services, masterminded by the hidden hand of the Daily Mail.”
Now BBC bosses are seeking showdown talks with their Met Police partners. As rumours of a rift emerge, it’s feared that the BBC may retaliate with a work to rule. This would involve treating the police just like any other public entity, questioning all their claims with mild scepticism. Refusal to accept glib explanations and the sudden questioning of soundbite politics would be a dramatic change in editorial policy, that would cause an irreversible rift. One top people’s nanny says dozens of many dinner party plans are being scrapped.
Worse could follow, media commentators warn. Offers of presenting jobs on Crimewatch may be withdrawn, and the broadcasting careers of many high-ranking police officers could be put in jeopardy. The top floors of Scotland Yard are said to have become enveloped in a suffocating atmosphere of fear, and junior officers have been told that it’s ‘not a good time’ to approach Bernard Hogan-Howe with their personal problems.
“I’ve never seen morale so low on the job,” said one cop, an elite member of the secretive unit CAW-1 (cops actors whatever). “I’m going to have a word with my agent.”