15 July 2021
New guidelines designed to make it easier to publish body-worn video footage are only being used by a handful of forces, according to the Police Federation.
The Federation liaised with the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) which last November published a policy on the proactive release of bodycam footage and national chair John Apter is urging more forces to take full advantage of the new guidelines.
His calls come amid fears that officers are too often coming in for criticism when clips are viewed on social media without any accompanying context or explanation.
John’s views were echoed by Derbyshire Police Federation branch secretary Kirsty Bunn who said: “Short videos are now regularly cropping up online but unfortunately more often than not they show just one side of the story and are rarely posted within any sort of context.
“This selective publication of footage can be very damaging for individual officers who find themselves facing a sort of trial by media simply for trying to do their jobs.
“It can also have a massively negative impact on public confidence in the police and people’s faith in the wider criminal justice process. That is why it is so important that more police forces use these new guidelines properly and show more proactivity in either releasing body-worn video clips or statements that add context to any material that is circulating online.
“There are obviously times when the police cannot publish footage and we accept this and the new guidelines actually recognise this but we really do have to try to redress the balance.”
John stepped up his calls for more forces to follow the new guidance after the issue was debated in the House of Lords last week.
Minister of State, Baroness Williams of Trafford, said “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 on social media of officers being criticised for stopping for lunch in their vehicle.
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 that 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.
“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 human 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.”