Home Secretary calls for police to share bodycam footage to combat trial by social media

Police bodycam footage of controversial incidents should be shared to combat the trial of officers by social media, Priti Patel will say on Wednesday.

The Home Secretary will urge police forces to be more "proactive" in publicising their officers’ bodycam film to counter "selective and misleading" video clips uploaded by the public or critics on social media.

She will back the Police Federation’s calls for such a move at its annual conference on Wednesday. It follows incidents where officers have been lambasted for stop and searches or arrests at high-profile protests such as at the Sarah Everard vigil but have subsequently been vindicated over their tactics.

It will be applauded by the Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, but there is scepticism among some police chiefs that wider publication of bodycam footage showing some of the tactics police deploy might have an adverse impact on public attitudes.

All officers who come into contact with the public are issued with body-worn video cameras and some forces have used them to "show and shame" violent or vile tactics by offenders such as spitting on officers.

The Home Secretary will say: "I will not let the police be subjected to trial by social media. That’s why I back the Federation’s call for forces to share body-worn video footage to counter highly selective, and misleading, video clips uploaded onto social media.

"I want forces to be more proactive in sharing body-worn video footage to highlight the good work of their officers, to build public confidence, and to correct harmful misinformation circulating online.

"It is critical that we work as a system to ensure that we maintain public confidence in policing, which is vital for victim reporting, intelligence-led policing, and to maintain our treasured model of policing by consent.

"As part of this process, we will be looking carefully at strengthening the system of local community scrutiny and the value of body-worn video, because transparency is vital."  

John Apter, the Federation’s chair, has argued footage can show the full context of an incident, where "snippets of interactions with police and public" on social media fuel armchair critics’ bold but mistaken assumptions.

"This is incredibly damaging to policing as some people may believe this one-sided story which is being presented and undermines the process we are trying to follow," he said.

However, Sir Steve House, Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, has warned many tactics used for officer safety, such as using four or five officers being deployed to safely restrain a single individual, “frankly look bad”.

A review by the Met found that while many filmed incidents showed "exemplary interactions" between police, routine publication would also reveal cases of "poor communication, a lack of patience, a lack of de-escalation".

In her speech, Ms Patel will also condemn the violence and abuse suffered by officers, who were spat at by people claiming to have the virus in the last year, and faced "despicable" attacks in protests at Hyde Park and Bristol. "This behaviour is grotesque. It is an attack on the fabric of our society," she will say.

She will also announce the first Knife Crime Prevention Orders will be piloted in July in London, giving courts and police powers to stop habitual knife carriers from associating with certain people, set curfews and place them under geographical restrictions.

And she will praise the police for their courage during the pandemic when they did not "flinch" in the face of the challenges "during one of the toughest moments in our country’s history".

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *