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Forces must 'get better at countering trial by media'

“Forces and chiefs need to be braver” on releasing body worn video to counteract trial by social media, says Federation.

The Federation’s annual conference panel on ‘Trial by media’ discussed how to tackle the detrimental impact of short, sometimes edited clips of officers going about their duties posted online.

John Apter, Chair of the Federation, said: “This isn’t about transparency. This is about hanging cops out to dry.”

“And those officers have no right of reply,” he added.

He said the level of abuse officers get is “more than just saying, I don't like police officers - its horrific hate, death threats”.

The majority of officers who took part in a poll during a conference session on trial by media want to see forces proactively sharing body-worn video footage, where legally possible to do so, as a means of setting the record straight when footage of incidents has been shared on social media.

A total of 93 per cent of delegates supported such a move.

“What I've been really frustrated with forces is that - accepting there will be some occasions where legally we can't do it for a number of reasons - forces need to be braver in putting out body worn video to redress the balance,” said Mr Apter

Also on the panel was popular TV judge and barrister Rob Rinder.

“I don't just feel strongly the emotional violence it has on the officer themselves," said Mr Rinder. "But of course, the enduring permanent and irretrievable damage it does to our policing.”

“The answer is simply for Federation and police services to get better at providing a counter narrative in a contemporary way that understands that landscape,” he said.

Mr Rinder also said there needed to be “better training for young officers – for everybody out there, especially if you’re doing on the beat policing. understand you’re being filmed".

He went on to say: “It's understanding now that you are in the presence of people who are filming you. And that in a very important way radically changes the complexion of how you police and communicate and that needs training. And that needs thinking.

"Policing in 2021 needs a meaningful national communications strategy that communicates about how to communicate on social media. It’s not just about the facts anymore – you need a more thoughtful response strategy, and to understand why people feel a certain way when you see a social media clip.

“It is also about using the same tools as the people standing there with a camera – a new thoughtful, contemporary strategy is needed.”

One member asked Mr Rinder about politicians’ role in this, and how some are quick to criticise on social media and when police are found not to be fault there are few public apologies.

“That's the nature of politics, I'm afraid,” he responded. “And if that's going to interfere with your emotional chemistry and not wanting to police, it's time to get a new job.”

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