Chief Constable: Don’t retreat from public interactions over filming incidents
Officers are being urged not to retreat from public interactions as a result of the rare few incidents where people choose to film them being abused or assaulted instead of offering to help.
Lancashire Constabulary Chief Constable Andy Rhodes has warned that footage seeking to “glorify the assaults” committed against officers can undermine their confidence in their relationship with the public.
However, writing for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, he reminded officers of the thousands more acts of kindness and support they are shown every day and asked them to not be deterred from interacting with local communities.
Mr Rhodes, the national lead for organisational development and wellbeing, also called on people to think about the impact their actions can have on officers who are being assaulted or abused.
His comments follow a number of high-profile incidents where officers being attacked were filmed by members of the public.
Mr Rhodes said: “We rely on the public to provide us with information, work with us, engage with us and most importantly trust and support us.
“These recent incidents and assaults are a relatively small number of cases amongst many more kindnesses from members of the public and examples of real bravery so officers should not feel unsafe.
“Nor should they feel the need to retreat from the millions of day to day informal interactions they have with the public as through these interactions they can change someone’s life or capture that one piece of vital information in a case.”
On August 20, Lancashire Constabulary officers were called to a street fight on Accrington’s Peel Street involving a large group of youths.
One officer was filmed slapping and pulling the hair of a 14-year-old girl who was resisting arrest, and footage of the incident was uploaded to Facebook.
The force’s conduct was criticised by concerned members of the public but Mr Rhodes issued a statement offering his full support to the officers involved.
The chief constable explained the girl had attempted to grab the officer’s Taser and Radio, and was detained using an open-palmed strike.
He added: “Perhaps those filming the incident may have better used their time helping the officers to calm the situation.”
Just over a week later, West Midlands Police’s road harm reduction team shared an incident in which an officer pursuing a stolen motorbike in Coventry had been knocked to the ground.
However, it added that members of the public had started filming the incident on their phones instead of helping the officer, who sustained minor injuries.
West Midlands Police later thanked people for the “huge outpouring of support” they showed to its staff in the incident’s aftermath.
Police Federation of England and Wales operational policing lead Simon Kempton said Mr Rhodes’ response to the incident in Accrington was “heartening to see”.
He added: “It saddens me that increasingly it seems that if members of the public witness an interaction between the police and a suspect their initial reaction is to reach for their phones and start filming.
“But just has this makes me question my faith in my fellow humans there are still times when that faith is restored.
“The small acts of kindness or appreciation that remind me that for every one person intent on deriding or defaming police officers there are many more who silently or subtly support us.”