The secretary of Dyfed Powys Police Federation has condemned “trial by social media” and encouraged forces to release body-worn footage to counter selective viral posts.
Roger Webb says that, where it’s appropriate, officers’ body-worn video should be made public to balance edited and out-of-context clips on social media.
Roger said: “We can’t allow our members to be subjected to trial by social media. It can be a harrowing experience to be at the centre of a social media storm, often whipped up by people with their own agenda.
“We’re encouraging our chief officer team to use new guidelines from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and release body-worn video footage to counter these narratives.
“Invariably it shows that what’s being posted on social media is not the full story. The context is that our members are doing a fantastic job in difficult circumstances, and we need to support them with that.”
Roger’s comments follow a session in the House of Lords in which peers discussed the need for forces to be more proactive with releasing body-worn video footage.
John Apter, the national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), echoed Roger’s comments as he welcomed the Lords debate.
John has raised his concerns about the public sharing selective video clips of police interactions on social media.
He has since worked with Chief Constable Andy Marsh, the former NPCC lead on body-worn video, and the NPCC issued new policy to forces in November.
John said: “It is good to see this important issue has been raised in the House of Lords as we have been pushing for change in this area over the past year. What is frustrating is only a handful of forces have adopted the new guidance issued by the NPCC and many are not as proactive as they could be. It shouldn’t be taking so long to do something which would support our colleagues.
“Not only are police officers being hung out to dry when these incredibly damaging, one-sided clips are posted on social media with absolutely no context, but they risk jeopardising public confidence in the service and undermines the criminal justice process.
“Policy is better than it was, but I would strongly urge more forces to take full advantage of the new guidance and be more proactive in either releasing body-worn video clips, or issuing a statement to add context to what is circulating. I completely accept that in some cases we are unable to release footage and the new guidance recognises this - it is all about striking a balance.”
During the House of Lords debate, Minister of State, Baroness Williams of Trafford, Minister of State, told the House of Lords that “speed is of the essence” when it comes to police publicising their interactions with the public.
She added: “Selective release of video can paint a very different picture from what actually happened. This point has been made again and again. It is absolutely right that these things be released quickly and brought forward in a way that does not undermine the criminal justice system that ensues.”
Lord Coaker also raised the issue of police being vilified on social media not long after a video surfaced of officers being criticised for stopping for lunch in their vehicle.
John said: “In recent days we have seen officers having camera phones stuffed in their faces while they dare to eat on duty. It may come as a surprise to some, but police officers are humans beings and need to stop to eat during the little time they have free.
“Because of the demands of the job, lack of police stations and even fewer police canteens they will sometimes be seen eating in public, this should not be breaking news on social media.”