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Anger as Patel calls to ‘censor’ social media footage of officers

Campaigners warn the call is a ‘blatant attempt to curb citizens’ efforts to hold police to account’

PRITI PATEL’s call to censor social media footage of officers is a “blatant attempt to curb citizens’ efforts to hold police to account,” campaigners have warned. 

Speaking at the annual Police Federation of England and Wales conference, the Home Secretary said today that she will “not let the police be subjected to trial by social media.”

Supporting plans to counter “highly selective and misleading video clips uploaded on to social media,” Ms Patel also called for police to be proactive at sharing body-worn footage to “correct harmful misinformation circulated online.” 

But police monitoring campaigners voiced concerns today over the reliability of so-called bodycam footage. 

Suresh Grover of The Monitoring Group said that they frequently deal with cases where body-worn footage is not available at “vital moments of police response” because the officer had “chosen” not to switch it on.

“The Home Secretary’s call to censor the use of social media footage is a blatant attempt to curb citizens’ legitimate attempts to hold police accountable for their misconduct,” he continued. 

“Currently public confidence in police holding themselves to account is extremely  low — the danger is that the current proposals will damage it beyond repair.”

While Ms Patel said she backed calls for police forces to release bodycam footage, the Met has previously stated that it will not routinely release its own videos. 

It comes after the Metropolitan Police Federation called earlier this year for the government to press social media firms to prevent videos of officers being shared online.  

Civil liberties groups warned at the time against the move, saying that calls to censor unflattering footage of police “is something that belongs in a police state, not a democracy.”

Campaigners also argue that, given the huge powers wielded by the police, filming officers is one of the few effective ways to hold them to account. 

The calls follow a series of incidents caught on camera that have raised concerns about stop and search, use of force and racial profiling. 

Just this week, officers in Leeds were accused of using disproportionate force after a video showed police pepper spraying a black man before pinning him to the ground. 

Anti-racism campaigners organised a protest in response to the incident. West Yorkshire Police said that the man was taken into custody on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly in a public place.

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