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Norfolk Police Federation

Body-Worn Footage Shows The Reality Of Policing

30 October 2020

Norfolk Police Federation’s Chairman has backed the release of officers’ body-worn footage to the public, saying: “It’s really important that we dispel some myths.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel has written to Martin Hewitt, chair of the National Police Chiefs' Council, stating that the actions of officers are "deliberately misrepresented" in videos posted on social media by members of the public and this could undermine trust in the police.

Norfolk Police Federation Andy Symonds agreed, saying: “What we’re allowing at the moment as a police service is a social media furore on some of these complaints, when there are only snippets of the incident and people are editing a three-minute video into 10 seconds.

“In my view, in many of these videos we’re applying a proportionate technique that we’re trained in. But we don’t get to see the lead-up to that, where the person has possibly refused to comply with lower-level interventions.

“I think it is healthy that we get out early as a police service, and it’s not for the Federation to do this, it’s for us to encourage, influence and push this. It’s for the police service to do, to protect our members. These cops go out and do difficult jobs on behalf of the community.

“The Chief Constable will ask officers to enforce things, do stop searches on organised crime groups and drug traffickers, and at the end of it there may be a complaint and a clip on social media. Then the officer is subject to an awful environment on social media and they’ve got no right of reply except a long investigation. These things can change the public’s view of the police, when a year down the line that cop is exonerated from doing anything incorrectly.”

Andy added: “This is the reality of what cops face every day and a lot of the time it's hostility, a lot of the time they fear they’ll be assaulted, or that people might have a weapon on them.” He said that showing officers’ body-worn footage would “balance the scales, but also show the reality to the masses – this is the pressure cops face trying to police the community you live in”.

However Andy and Federation Secretary Sam Hawkins did sound a note of caution. Sam said: “The worry is that there could end up with more mud being thrown at officers and more damage being done.”

John Apter, Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), said: “What frustrates me is seeing more and more short snippets of interactions with the police and public on social media, with armchair critics, who do not know the full details, making bold assumptions. This is incredibly damaging to policing, as some people may believe this one-sided story which is being presented and it undermines the process we are trying to follow.”

John added: “I would encourage forces to publicise more body-worn video footage, bearing in mind the status of any case, so the public can see the full picture – which certainly is not the picture portrayed by some for their own means on a majority of occasions.”