Forces should consider releasing body-worn video footage to protect officers and show the full story behind clips that appear on social media, according to the national chair of the Police Federation.
John Apter has requested a meeting with Martin Hewitt, chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, and Mike Cunningham, chief executive officer at the College of Policing, to discuss his concerns about the growing trend of officers being vilified when selective clips of their interactions with the public are shared on social media platforms and then broadcast by the media.
“These snippets rarely show the full facts,” he says, “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.”
Gareth Jones, chair of Dyfed Powys Police Federation, has welcomed the national chair’s stance.
“We are increasingly seeing the police service subjected to trial by media when these short clips, often selected to show officers in the worst possible light and with no context to their words or actions, are posted on social media,” says Gareth, “There is a need for officers’ own footage, which will show the full extent of their interactions with the public, to be released where possible to help give a more accurate reflection of what has actually occurred.”
The national chair is calling for urgent action.
He explained: “In these volatile cases where short clips are used against policing and police officers across all media, resulting in complaints against our members, we want Professional Standard Departments to expedite these investigations. In the event of the officer or officers being exonerated and, once the investigation has concluded in its entirety, we would urge forces to publicly release the BWV footage to redress the balance. I believe there is an urgent need for this to happen.
“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.”
John said BWV was one of the biggest advances in policing in the last decade, allowing evidence to be collected but also capturing the full context of police interactions and showing the realities of policing.
Researchled by the University of Cambridge’s Institution of Criminology shows BWV is associated with a 93 per cent reduction in 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.