Trial By Media

It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s Social Media or Main Stream Media, they seem to have taken the place of Courtrooms and Tribunals in our judicial system.  Self-appointed Judge, Jurors and Executioners.

More and more recently both Social Media and MSM have circulated heavily edited, out of context clips of mobile phone footage which claim to show some form of wrong-doing by random Police Officers.

Let me be clear, this is NOT the US of A and I have no problem with, and indeed encourage, Police Officers to be accountable for their actions, but let’s be clear they ARE allowed to use Force in order to restrain, arrest or prevent someone from doing something unlawful  If they stood idly by and watched whilst an armed suspect stabbed an innocent bystander they would be rightly criticised.  However, if they intervene and use a degree of Physical Force to disarm the person and prevent the stabbing there is most certainly someone out there who will film it on their phones (when they could be assisting the officers perhaps), edit the footage, circulate it on Social Media in pursuit of ‘Likes’ and ‘Retweets’ and, increasingly, in an attempt to get the officers to release their suspect and/or get them in trouble with their Professional Standards or Independent Office for Police Conduct.

If they have done something wrong and overstepped the mark, used possibly more force than the minimum required there is an established process for dealing with that.  Take your unedited mobile phone footage and make an official complaint.  It WILL be taken seriously but you shouldn’t expect immediate sanctions of the officer(s).  Your complaint WILL be investigated.  If it is available the officers’ Body Worn Video footage WILL be examined and compared to your complaint.  You WILL be given the opportunity to make an evidential statement formalising what you are alleging, and the officers WILL be given the opportunity to respond to that.

What is NOT acceptable is uploading and circulating heavily edited, and often out of context, video clips to the Court of Twitter, showing offcers struggling with a violent person and trying to incite hatred of the officers.  They are doing their job.  No officer goes to work thinking “I wonder how many necks I can kneel on today”

For the benefit of those few who still do not seem to know, the officers ARE allowed to use force.  It all depends on the circumstances at the time and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution or response but it IS permissable to shoot somebody dead who is carrying a knife.  That would certainly not be their first option, it would most definitely only arise when every other option had either failed or been deemed inappropriate, but it can be lawful.

Bystanders shouting “Get off his neck” when nothing of the sort is happening serve only to inflame an already tense situation.  People being struggled with shouting “I can’t breathe” can be misleading.  If they can shout “I can’t breathe”, then they can probably breathe.

If you really MUST film these situations then do the honourable thing.  Do not edit the footage and if you feel impelled to do so submit the unedited footage as evidence, for or against the officers.  Or you could consider putting your phone back in your pocket and asking the officers if there is anything you can do to help, but if that isn’t realistic then you could consider getting your phone back out of your pocket and dialling 999, telling them that an officer is struggling with a violent, and possibly armed person, and could do do with some assistance.

The Police in this country are, and must always be, accountable for their actions, but it is becoming far more difficult for them to do they job they are expected, and paid, to do, when they have at least one hand tied behind their backs for fear of appearing in the Court of Twitter.  In the event of a complaint they will ALWAYS be called upon to explain, and hopefully, justify their actions.  If they are deemed to have gone ‘over the top’ there are a variety of sanctions available to be imposed.  If in any doubt scan your newspapers, or wherever else you get your news from, and you will easily find examples of officers either being disciplined or prosecuted for use of excessive force.  It is not a widespread problem, but when it occurs, and is substantiated, then appropriate action IS taken.

Don’t let you and your phone be part of the problem, be part of the solution.  Report the officers’ use of force if you genuinely think it’s OTT, film it if you must, but don’t edit the footage, and don’t circulate on SM just for a few ‘Likes’.

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