'Release officers' body camera clips to prevent trial by social media'

19 August 2020, 11:01

The police body camera footage of Dawn Butler being stopped has not been released
The police body camera footage of Dawn Butler being stopped has not been released. Picture: Dawn Butler

By Asher McShane

Police officers' body-worn video should be publicly released to protect them from "unfair vilification" on social media, the national federation chairman has said.

Police Federation head John Apter is urging force leaders to take action to stop officers facing "trial by social media" over controversial incidents.

Labour's Dawn Butler shared a video of her being stopped by police
Labour's Dawn Butler shared a video of her being stopped by police. Picture: Dawn Butler

The Met has faced controversy and accusations of racism in recent months after a series of vehicle stops including athlete Bianca Williams, MP Dawn Butler, and Inspector Charles Ehikioya.

Lawyers for the Metropolitan Police, Britain's largest force, are already looking at ways to allow footage from officers' cameras to be made public more easily.

Mr Apter, who leads the Federation that represents more than 120,000 rank-and-file officers, said clips on social media do not show the reality of policing.

"These snippets rarely show the full facts," he said.

"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 is calling for a meeting with the chairman of the National Police Chiefs Council, Martin Hewitt, and the head of the College of Policing, Mike Cunningham, to discuss the issue.

Mr Apter added: "Given the way footage is being used against policing and police officers across all media, I would urge forces to be far more proactive in such circumstances, publicising 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."