'Body-cam footage should be released to stop trial by social media'

Officers’ body-cam footage should be released to the public to stop them facing ‘trial by social media’, police federation chief says

  • Federation chief John Apter says officers face ‘unfair vilification’ on social media
  • It comes as Met faces accusations of racism over a number of high-profile stops
  • Mr Apter says that clips shared on social media rarely show the full facts of a situation and ‘can be incredibly damaging for public confidence in policing’

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

John Apter, who heads the Police Federation of England and Wales, is urging force leaders to take action to stop officers facing ‘trial by social media’ over controversial incidents.

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.

His comments come as the Met has faced controversy and accusations of racism due to a number of high-profile stops. 

Team GB sprinter Bianca Williams received an apology from Met police chief Dame Cressida Dick for the distress her officers caused her in a heavy-handed stop-and-search last month.

Ms Williams was stopped outside her home while travelling in a Mercedes with her boyfriend Ricardo dos Santos and the couple’s three-month-old son in the back of the car.

Mr Dos Santos and Ms Williams say police handcuffed them while their son was in the car before eventually being let go. 

A photo shared on Instagram by Ms Williams of the stop and search confrontation outside her own home in London. She is to the right of the photo, with her three-month-old son

Commonwealth gold medallist Bianca Williams, 26, and her Portuguese sprinter partner Ricardo dos Santos, 25, were stopped and searched near their London home

Williams and her Portuguese sprinter husband Ricardo dos Santos, 25, were hauled from their Mercedes and handcuffed in front of their three-month-old son in Lanhill Road, Maida Vale, on a Saturday afternoon. 

Earlier this month, Labour MP Dawn Butler accused the police of racially profiling her after she was pulled over while driving in East London.

Scotland Yard said the stop was a result of an officer having ‘incorrectly entered’ the car’s registration plate into a computer to wrongly identify it as a vehicle registered to Yorkshire, but did not explain why the search was carried out in the first place.

Ms Butler filmed her heated confrontation in Hackney with two officers, who she claims demanded to know what was in the back of car.  

The MP for Brent Central (hand seen left) filmed her heated confrontation in Hackney with two officers in a stop and search that sparked the PM to urge police to show ‘fairness and equality’

Earlier this week, pressure mounted as Inspector Charles Ehikioya, a senior Met Police officer claimed he was racially profiled by two white officers from his own force when they stopped his car.

The 55-year-old, who also filmed the incident, claimed the officers stopped him without justification and has complained of racial harassment to Scotland Yard following the incident on May 23. 

But the force insisted it found no evidence of misconduct following an investigation by the Professional Standards Unit which reviewed the officers’ body-worn footage.

Mr Ehikioya told BBC News he refused to leave his Toyota iQ when he was stopped because one of the two officers had not yet switched on his body-worn video.

The officers asked to see Mr Ehikioya’s driving licence and proof of insurance and check that the vehicle was not stolen, he was sober and not using his phone after they his driving was ‘unusual’.

The officer insisted his behaviour had been reasonable and Mr Ehikioya was being obstructive. 

Federation chairman John Apter says police are ‘damned if they do and damned if they don’t’

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.’ 

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