Police want Twitter to stop people sharing videos of them

An image of someone using a mobile to film a police officer
Steve Topple

An organisation that represents police officers is kicking off about people sharing videos of arrests and other police interactions on social media. It’s calling for platforms like Twitter and YouTube to do something. But the group’s claim that cops are somehow the victims here doesn’t exactly ring true.

Stop sharing cop videos, says cop

The Metropolitan Police Federation (MPF) is the Met Police’s “staff association”. It represents more than 30,000 cops. And it’s recently hit back at people sharing videos of its officers’ conduct on social media.

The MPF said in a statement that its leader Ken Marsh:

has called for the government and force leaders to tackle social media firms that enable footage of officers dealing with incidents to be shared.

Marsh said it was time to end:

trial by social media.

He also said:

It’s time to step in. We want something done… Officers shouldn’t be subjected to this while simply doing their job.

Stop and search

A specific incident prompted the MPF’s statement. It involved the Met’s Territorial Support Group (TSG) stopping and searching a Black man last year. As the MPF itself said, TSG officers:

stopped [him] under the Road Traffic Act. Officers then searched the man’s car under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

The MPF noted that:

Evidence showed that the man failed to comply with the officers’ verbal demands and refused to show his hands, which led to him being handcuffed in his car.

The incident in question ended with the police officers not finding anything. So, people shared partial footage of the incident on social media. Then, as the MPF wrote, the man:

complained to the IOPC [Independent Office for Police Conduct] that he had been stopped in an aggressive manner, that the grounds for the search were false, that the force used by the officers was unnecessary, and that they had failed to use PPE when searching him and his car.

The IOPC only upheld the man’s complaint about PPE. This is not surprising given the police investigate themselves and it is notoriously hard for people to get any semblance of justice. Indeed, over the last decade, only one in 200 complaints against the Met Police were upheld.

The MPF claim this is an example of why social media companies should stop people sharing videos. But this is not the whole story.

Institutional racism?

The Guardian reported on the incident in July 2020. As it wrote:

In the original incident… on 23 May, Colaço said he was stopped after being “aggressively tailgated” by the Metropolitan police, with officers then running to his car and banging on his window. They later said they had been able to smell cannabis from his car.

As he queried why he was being stopped, Colaço, 30, was forced into handcuffs, video footage shows. He agreed to leave his car and stood with officers who searched him, while others combed through his BMW and found nothing.

Just days later, police stopped Colaço again. This time, City of London police allegedly smashed his window. It was just after he was on C4 News talking about the 23 May incident and institutional police racism. As reported in March, an IOPC investigation into this incident resulted in it upholding Colaço’s appeal. And it told City of London police to re-conduct its own investigation.

Nothing to see here

The Guardian said Colaço claimed police have searched him “about 20 times”, but he “did not have a criminal record”.

So, in other words, the incident the MPF is using as an example of why the public shouldn’t share cop videos is arguably an example of the institutional racism that pervades the Met’s use of stop and search. Of course, the MPF would disagree. Marsh said of the 23 May incident:

Yet again my colleagues, after thousands and thousands of pounds have been wasted, have been found to be doing their job exactly as they should.

“Censorship” and “whitewashing misconduct”

Police monitoring group Netpol disagrees with the MPF’s call. It told The Canary:

To somehow prove its dubious case for ‘trial by social media’ the MPF started off arguing for the release of all body camera footage. But the Met rejected this idea last year. This was after its own internal review showed officers displaying “poor communication, a lack of patience, a lack of de-escalation before use of force is introduced”.

Now the MPF instead wants the Tories to put pressure on companies like Twitter and YouTube to censor people who share evidence of oppressive policing. This is evidence that has often helped to challenge officers’ misleading versions of events. And it has also led to the disciplining of violent officers. Netpol argues that in the face of the enormous power that officers wield, filming the police is one of the few effective ways of ever successfully holding them to account.

Last year the French government tried to criminalise members of the public who shared images of police officers. But widespread protests forced it to backtrack.

The British government should learn from this clumsy attempt at censorship and ignore the increasingly desperate attempts by the MPF to whitewash repeated cases of misconduct by its members.

Who will police the police?

Just days ago, someone shared this footage on Twitter:

Should people not share this kind of footage? The MPF thinks not. But the problem with its position is twofold.

Firstly, the MPF seems to believe that its officers are beyond public reproach. That or they just know how bad these incidents look and want to avoid the public holding them to account for their actions.

But secondly, it thinks that the reason for its officers engaging with the victims in these videos is correct in the first place. For example, Colaço is clearly the victim of systemic, institutionalised police racism. Yet the MPF claims its officers are the victims.

This skewing of the narrative is endemic of the current approach to policing. It ties into the contentious Police Bill. And it also shows the creeping authoritarianism that pervades the police and their bosses in government.

Featured image via The Canary

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  • Show Comments
      1. Absolutely spot on! Call me cynical, but obviously once footage been uploaded to social media “the evidence” can’t suddenly “disappear” or be deleted.. In my humble opinion & especially after being assaulted, degraded & generally mistreated by the police myself, it’s the ONLY way that the police can be properly held to account as the PCC clearly can’t be relied upon to do it…

    1. Every night, often more than once a night, you can check police videos sold (I presume they are sold and not given away) to TV companies for their “entertainment” value where the police stop, arrest, and charge people, have police chases, show themselves to be quite unpleasant bullying characters, and more often than not the subject of their offensive behaviour is either not charged, or found not guilty orf any offence.

      Maybe that’s where people are going wrong …. they should sell their cop videos to TV stations …………..

    2. The MPF would have this country run like a police state. Everyone compliant with no rights and a slave to authority. They are pushing now for every officer in the UK to be armed – ending up like America. These people are never to be trusted – Keep filming and exposing! It’s the only way they remain accountable.

    3. Shame the government keep pushing the smart phone and apps. Did they not realise everyone has a camera on them all the time!
      That’s the legislation the French tried to bring in… I don’t think the French public were impressed with the actions of the Police after all the yellow vests demonstrations.

    4. Yes exactly westham- mike it works both ways.. the problem the police have is being shown in a true light. They dont want the public to see how they act when diving into peaceful protests, snatch squads grabbing women from behind, To many times its been seen on protesters phone videos, how the police are really acting, when all they want is the carefully edited scripted “ the protesters attacked the police” routine.. when most of us know this is not true. If you rem ugly patel was sacked by plastic maggie may for having 13 impromptu meetings in 12 days with netenyahu, to arrange police training in combat scenarios, like they use in Palestine. The amerian police force also were trained in the same way.. plus if you look closely at the vids, you can see there are several hired thugs and one or two proper cops to do the booking.. The rest are mearly hired thugs. They do not have any respect for the law, they do not obey the law, they stand and shout and threaten the protesters. That is not the way of a police officer, who is a corporate security guard, not a police constable. Who’s job is to uphold the law and protect the public.. ah ha. You missed that didnt you. The removal of the queens police constables, and replaced by police officers. Even at the clapham common vigil, the police from the outset wanted to call it a protest. Would you call remembrance day a protest. Well.
      The reason they dont want to be seen doing what they do, is the gov and the embedded media cannot sell the public a false narrative if the truth keeps coming out.

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