Bystanders who film assaults are “a sad indictment of society” says PFEW chair.

The national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has become the latest officer to condemn members of the public who film police officers being assaulted.

Nov 20, 2018
By Tony Thompson
PFEW Chair John Apter

John Apter said that the growing number of incidents in which bystanders film officers fighting for their lives is “a sad indictment of society”. 

Mr Apter said: “It deeply saddens and frustrates me that we seem to be seeing an increase in people filming officers being brutally assaulted, and whilst I do not advise the public intervening and putting themselves in harm’s way, I think it says a lot about our society when people’s first instinct is to get their phone out.” 

He spoke out after video footage emerged of two officers locked in a violent struggle as they tried to make an arrest in Merton, south London, on Saturday. A female police officer was filmed being kicked in the head during the routine traffic stop, before being left lying dazed in the road. Her male colleague was dragged around in the road as he tried to stop a suspect in a white tracksuit from running away.  

During the clip an unseen narrator can be hear saying: “Oh dear me, [the attacker] just kung-fu kicked her . . . I’m getting this all live, boys and girls, thought I’d just stop, have a little watch.”  

Both officers were hospitalised following the attack, treated for head injuries and cuts. 

The footage of the incident was posted on numerous social media sites. One, Nehemiah Adams, captain of Guildford City football club, posted it to his Twitter account and added the caption “South London at night . . . Lol.”  Mr Adams later tweeted that he did not record the video and apologised for the caption.  

Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said the police may let violent suspects go if the public do not support their efforts to make arrests.  

“Are we now in a society where, if we think we can’t detain somebody, we just let them go? It’s just not worth it,” he said. “We don’t come to work to get assaulted, and if we’re not going to be backed up in what we’re doing then what is the point?” 

With a police officer now being assaulted somewhere in the country once every four minutes, the opportunities for members of the public to capture such footage seem to be growing.  

Speaking on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme on Tuesday (November 20), Lancashire Chief Constable Andy Rhodes, the National Police Chief’s Council Lead for officer wellbeing, described the footage of the south London attack as “sickening”.  

He added: “People seem to be obsessed with trying to capture footage that’s going to get them hits on YouTube or whatever. But I also think there is something more sinister. Some of these people are actually glorifying some of these attacks on emergency service workers.” 

Mr Rhodes added: “British policing relies on the fact that our officers feel confident to get close to the public to keep them safe. What you are going to see is more and more police officers given more protection and more resources to protect themselves rather than protecting the public.” 

The attack on the south London officers is just the latest in a series of similar incidents that have been captured on film and shared to social media. In August members of the public who saw a West Midlands Police officer knocked off his motorbike while chasing a suspect were condemned for filming him as he lay injured in the road. 

The officer’s colleagues took to social media to condemn what they described as “absolutely disgusting behaviour”. One police twitter account added: “For those filming our injured colleague … the difference between us & you is if you ever need our help in future, we will still respond.” 

A week later two officers from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) attempting to make an arrest in a branch of McDonald’s in Hackney, east London, were filmed being kicked and jostled by members of a crowd surrounding them.

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