13 July 2021
The National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) is urging more forces to utilise new guidelines which enables them to release body-worn video footage easier.
Last year National Chair John Apter raised his concerns to the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) over the public sharing selective video clips of police interactions on social media and the damaging impact it can have on public confidence and criminal justice processes.
As a result, John worked with the then NPCC lead on body-worn video Chief Constable Andy Marsh and the NPCC issued new policy to forces November last year, but further improvements need to be made in this area.
His continued calls follow a session in the House of Lords on 7 July where peers discussed the need for forces to be more proactive with releasing body-worn video footage.
Following the session, 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.”
In the House of Lords, 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 responded: “ 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.”