Federation seeks to protect officers from damaging social media clips

Police chiefs across England and Wales are being urged to make public more body-worn video (BWV) footage of high-profile incidents that appear on social media in order to protect officers by showing the ‘full story’ behind the interactions.

Aug 19, 2020
By Tony Thompson
Footage shared on social media does not always tell the full story, says the Police Federation.

John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, says there is increasing concern with the growing trend of police officers being vilified after selective clips of police interactions are shared on social media and then broadcast by the media.

He has now called for a meeting with National Police Chiefs’ Council chair Martin Hewitt and College of Policing chief executive Mike Cunningham to discuss the matter further.

Mr Apter said: “These snippets rarely show the full facts. They are purposefully selective in what they show and can be incredibly damaging for public confidence in policing, as inevitably some people will believe the one-sided story often presented.

“At a time when officers are doing their absolute best in difficult and trying circumstances, this unfounded and unfair criticism often leads to trial by media and is totally unacceptable. They are simply damned if they do and damned if they don’t.”

He added: “BWV  is one of the biggest advances in policing in the last decade, as not only does it allow the collection of evidence, it also captures the full context of police interactions and shows the reality of policing.”

Research led by the University of Cambridge’s Institution of Criminology shows the use of BWV is associated with a 93 per cent reduction in citizen complaints against police officers. The cameras are also a useful deterrent for those who may be considering assaulting an officer, as their actions will be caught on camera.

“Given the way footage is being used against policing and police officers across all media, I would urge forces to be far more proactive in such circumstances, publicising BWV footage to redress the balance. I believe there is an urgent need for this to happen,” said Mr Apter.

“I fully accept that it might not always be possible to release the BWV footage but doing nothing is not an option. We must take the necessary action to protect police officers from unfair vilification, as well as ensuring that public confidence in policing is not undermined.”

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