19 August 2020
Forces should consider publicising police body-worn video footage to protect officers and show the full story behind police interaction clips which appear on social media.
That is the view of National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) John Apter who has written to his counterpart at the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).
The Federation is concerned 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.
Mr Apter has now called for a meeting with NPCC Chair Martin Hewitt and College of Policing Executive Mike Cunningham to discuss further.
He 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: “Body-worn video (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.
Mr Apter continued: “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/s 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,” he concluded.