A bungling police force have apologised after a BBC reporter was wrongly held to the ground in a busy city street when his outside broadcast kit was mistaken for a backpack bomb.
Max Khan was returning to the studios of BBC Radio Stoke on foot after presenting a report from a nearby Post Office when he was set upon by five officers of Staffordshire Police outside the Potteries Shopping Centre in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent’s city centre. The journalist was told to “get down on the floor”, forced to his knees and held face-down in full view of shoppers.
Suspicion was raised when a member of the public contacted police with a report of an “Arabic-looking man acting suspiciously”. The caller mentioned the reporter’s rucksack, which contained standard BBC OB equipment with protruding antennas.
Mr Khan told BBC News that he felt “embarrassed and humiliated” by the incident. “I think it then moved on to fear of what could have happened and a bit of anger as well.
“You get the apologies at the scene from officers, but you still feel that maybe there could have been better intelligence or something.
“It seems somewhat basic to be treated in that way just because of the colour of your skin.”
Chief Superintendent Jane Sawyers of Staffordshire Police said: “Our first duty in cases like this is the safety of the public, the person and our officers, and presented with this limited information local officers immediately responded and positively acted to ensure everyone's safety.
“I want to apologise to the man involved in the incident for any distress caused, but the action taken was necessary.
“It is vital that everyone remains alert to the well publicised threats from terrorism.”
A BBC spokesman said that the matter was now closed and no further action would be taken.