Body Cam Footage Will Help Officers Defend Themselves
There are always two sides to every story. And yet when it comes to the actions of police officers, we only see one side – that of the public, writes Chairman Ken Marsh.
In particular, video footage of the difficult work we do being put into the public domain usually comes with an anti-police agenda.
How can it be right or fair for police officers to be put on trial by social media?
It gets shared, it gets picked up by the mainstream media, it gets negatively commented on. It does damage to policing and to the individual officers concerned.
And our colleagues are expected to sit back and shoulder the abuse and defamatory comments with no redress.
Especially when there is a simple solution to solve the situation.
Nothing To Hide
The Metropolitan Police Federation is calling for the prompt release of officers’ body-worn camera footage in these incidents.
Why? We are transparent. We are the most transparent of public services.
We have nothing to hide.
That would soon end much of the nonsense we see on our screens and on Twitter.
We are fed up with this continuing trial by media where members of the public can take 10-second clips on their phone of our colleagues and release them instantly into the social domain without asking them or anyone else for permission.
Our colleagues aren’t allowed to share the footage from their body-worn cameras to put their point of view and the truth out there.
Why on earth can’t we do that? If we could share the body-worn camera footage with the public immediately, we wouldn’t have this problem.
Nine times out of 10 (if not 10 times out of 10) our footage and our version of events is completely contrary to the little snippet the member of the public has taken it upon themselves to capture and share.
Videos are taken, commented on and shared entirely out of context.
It’s painting my colleagues in a terrible light when they are just trying to do their jobs.
They don’t deserve that; it’s incredibly unfair and is a real injustice to them.
All we want is some continuity. As a Federation and as officers, we are quite prepared for our footage to be put out there so people can see what actually happened during the incident and for it to be shared.
Body-worn cameras provide complete transparency. Once it’s clipped on, that’s it. It captures everything that goes on throughout the day.
We want that footage to be shared whenever it is legal and appropriate to do so.
Officers are totally fed up with the status quo, and that’s why we’ve now got officers filming incidents they attend on their own mobile phones.
It’s what they are having to resort to so they can properly capture an arrest or whatever the incident might be. It’s happening because they think to themselves, ‘I am going to record this just for my own protection.’
I’ve had numerous officers tell me they are recording themselves because body-worn footage can’t be released.
We don’t want it to be happening, but I understand why our colleagues are doing it. These viral videos being posted by the public have upped the levels of fear with officers.
They feel they are going to be portrayed unfairly, so they are just trying to look after themselves.
It’s wrong that they have to do this.
We don’t want them doing it and having to worry about it when they are attending an incident. They have got more than enough on their plates already.
At the end of the day, officers need to be respected; they need to be treated fairly.
We Need Clarification
The message from the Metropolitan Police Federation to the force is very clear. Give us the legal clarification as to why we cannot release body-worn footage because I keep getting told the force is seeking legal advice on this.
Let’s have a formal conversation into how at least part of the footage can be released.
We know not all of it can be released all the time for legal reasons.
But most of the time these incidents are covering low-level disorder; it’s people putting up videos of late-night incidents in McDonald’s and other, frankly, rubbish. Sometimes they can be high-profile incidents filmed by high-profile people.
Either way, it doesn’t matter; our footage needs to be shared before damage to policing and police officers is unfairly done.
Our footage should be released as soon as possible after any incidents to stop anyone else involved taking over the narrative of a situation to paint us in an untrue and – let’s be honest – malicious light.
I’m not scared about doing that at all. It shows we are transparent and have got nothing to hide. So, let’s get the footage and our point of view out there. Let’s be fair. Let’s be balanced.
It would reassure the public over our actions and my colleagues would feel supported and vindicated. And that will help us all to work together better.
Public and police.