It should not be taking forces so long to start following new guidelines which allow them to release body-worn video (BWV) footage which could support police officers, says the national chair of the Police Federation.
John Apter liaised with Chief Constable Andy Marsh, the former National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead on body-worn video last year, and the NPCC then issued new policy to forces in November.
“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,” says John.
“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.”
Last year John raised concerns about the public sharing selective video clips of police interactions on social media with the NPCC and highlighted the damaging impact it can have on public confidence and criminal justice processes.
And last Wednesday (7 July), peers discussed the need for forces to be more proactive with releasing body-worn videos in a session in the House of Lords, a move welcomed by the national chair.
During the debate, 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 commented: “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.”
Liz Groom, chair of Cambridgeshire Police Federation, has welcomed the stance taken by the national chair.
“The posting of selective video clips on social media, with no context and no ability to see the full extent of police interaction with the public, is leading to a culture in which officers are facing trial by media, which can have a devastating impact on them, their force and the police service as a whole,” she explains.
“Forces need to counter this where they can by releasing body-worn video which often paints a very different picture to the short clips that all too often appear on social media platforms.”