Sunday, August 1, 2021
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Priti Patel condemns ‘trial by social media’ as police filmed by public

The home secretary is to condemn “trial by social media” following police incidents filmed by members of the public.

Priti Patel will give a speech to the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, later on Wednesday.

She will support the association’s call for the increased sharing of footage from police officers’ body-worn cameras to counter “selective” viral social media posts.

“I will not let the police be subjected to trial by social media,” the home secretary will say.

“That’s why I backed 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.”

Last year, the Police Federation said it was concerned over a “growing trend of police officers being vilified after selective clips of police interactions are shared on social media and then broadcast by the media”.

Some of the footage shared has sparked accusations of excessive force or racial profiling, and several clips have triggered misconduct investigations.

Last August, Police Federation chair John Apter wrote to the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the College of Policing, saying that footage from video cameras should be released when possible after controversial incidents for “balance”.

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Some senior officers have resisted the calls, citing data protection concerns and the dangers of affecting court cases or disciplinary processes.

At a press conference in December, Dame Cressida Dick said the Metropolitan Police would not “routinely release” officers’ footage.

“This is frustrating for officers where they feel another side could be shown to the story,” she added.

“We try to explain to help people understand the challenges some of our officers face and that they work in dynamic situations, where one piece of footage does not show the full story.”

Dame Cressida said that Scotland Yard had been “robust in our defence when we think it’s the right thing to do”, but also started complaints processes if a viral video had alerted the force to an incident that could constitute criminal behaviour or misconduct by officers.

“We are not in a position to be routinely posting up body-worn footage where someone is aggrieved and makes a complaint, we have to wait until the investigation is completed,” she added.

In her speech at the Police Federation’s annual conference, which is being held virtually, the home secretary will also call violence against officers during protests “despicable”.

She will also praise the way coronavirus laws have been enforced during the pandemic and call British police “the best in the world”.


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