Police officers should not face ‘trial by social media’, Patel to say

·3-min read

Police officers should not face a “trial by social media”, the Home Secretary will say as she backs calls to publish more body worn video footage of incidents.

In a speech to the annual Police Federation of England and Wales conference on Wednesday, Priti Patel is expected to say “transparency is vital” and support plans to try to counter “highly selective, and misleading, video clips uploaded onto social media”.

She is anticipated to tell the audience: “I will not let the police be subjected to trial by social media.

“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.

“It is critical that we work as a system to ensure that we maintain public confidence in policing, which is vital for victim reporting, intelligence-led policing, and to maintain our treasured model of policing by consent.”

Body Worn Video rollout launch
(PA)

She is expected to praise police officers for their work amid the coronavirus pandemic, telling them they did not “flinch” in the face of challenges “during one of the toughest moments in our country’s history”, but instead “provided reassurance and saved lives”.

She will add: “We had to introduce new laws and restrictions that nobody in this country had ever seen before. If they had been poorly enforced, we could have seen panic, chaos, and worse.

“Fortunately, this country has the best police force in the world.

“On behalf of the whole country, thank you for still being there for us during one of the toughest moments in our country’s history. You have done it superbly well and courageously.”

Ms Patel is also expected to condemn those who abuse officers, saying: “It’s a cruel irony that while most crimes naturally fell during lockdown, violence and abuse directed at police officers increased.

“You were spat and coughed at by thugs claiming to have the virus.

“Some of you were seriously injured and your vans were set on fire during the despicable events in Bristol earlier this year. Police were bloodied and pelted with bottles in Hyde Park in April.

“This behaviour is grotesque. And I will never accept that it’s simply part of the job. It is an attack on the fabric of our society. And every police uniform is worn by a human being who is entitled to dignity and respect.”

According to extracts of the speech released by the Home Office ahead of the event, Ms Patel is set to confirm a pilot of knife crime prevention orders (KCPOs) will be carried out by the Metropolitan Police in London in July.

The new civil court orders – which can ban those believed to regularly carry knives from certain areas, impose curfews, limit who they meet and compel them to take part in courses and rehabilitation – were initially due to be tried out in April last year but this was delayed amid the pandemic.

Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, policing minister Kit Malthouse, chief inspector of constabulary Sir Thomas Winsor, National Police Chiefs’ Council chairman Martin Hewitt, shadow policing minister Sarah Jones and the Federation’s national chairman John Apter are among those also expected to speak at the two-day virtual event.

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