Thames Valley Police has apologised to Milton Keynes News staff photographer Andy Handley after he was handcuffed, arrested and cautioned while trying to take photographs of a road traffic accident.
Handley, who has 30 years' experience as a journalist, was arrested just hours before the weekly paper went to press at 5.40pm, despite having stood behind the police cordon, and wasn't released until 1.15am the following morning.
The police did not return Handley's camera until later on in the day.
At the scene of the accident, Handley said he was approached by a police sergeant who asked him to hand over his digital camera and memory cards.
Handley argued he had a right to take pictures and called his editor, David Gale, who backed up his argument, but he was still arrested.
After being photographed, fingerprinted and DNA tested he was able to talk to a solicitor. He accepted a caution for obstruction but is seeking legal advice to see whether this can be rescinded.
Handley said: "As the officer walked over to me and my reporter I thought he was going to say that we could get a bit closer for a different angle — when he asked for the camera I thought he was joking.
"This is a worrying development in the relationship between Thames Valley Police and the media. I would like to think this was just the actions of one overzealous officer, but I fear it may be more regimented than that.
"It is the right of the media to operate unhindered that helps keep the liberty of all in this country.
"This may just have been a crash scene but it makes you wonder what this officer may have done if the incident had been more sensitive. In my 30 years in journalism I have covered a lot of different jobs and never been treated in such a way, and would hope that I never will again."
Gale, who said his contacts in the emergency services were "incredulous" when he told them what had happened, has written to the chief constable expressing his concerns, asking for an explanation and an assurance that such an incident would never happen again.
A Thames Valley Police spokesman said: "An inspector from the roads police unit in Milton Keynes has apologised to the photographer and his editor at MK News about the arrest."