Staffordshire Police Federation representatives have welcomed a national conference debate around Trial by Media.

The session began with an input from an officer who had been vilified when a video of an incident they were involved in was posted on social media and yet later they were found to have done nothing wrong.

Staffordshire rep Claire Bond said afterwards: “I found the words from the officer quite moving and very realistic of how a lot of my colleagues are treated these days. I found this session not only important but current, from the discussion about body-worn video and how we are portrayed in the media.”

A total of 93 per cent of delegates who took part in a poll during the session want to see forces proactively sharing body-worn video footage, where legally possible to do so, as a means of setting the record straight when footage of incidents has been shared on social media.

The session featured a panel made up of national Federation chair John Apter, popular TV judge and barrister Robert Rinder and the BBC’s former home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw.

Robert Rinder called for forces and the Federation to ensure they led an ‘effective, meaningful and creative’ media response, sharing good news stories to help counter the negative coverage now seen in the changing media landscape. They had, he said, the power to influence the conversation on social media.

Claire commented: “I found he spoke very encouraging words about how we as the police should stand up for our officers and produce counter allegations publicly, but also agreed with him when he said that media is no longer what it used to be and perhaps we need to change with the times.”

Danny Shaw, while stressing the important difference between PR and news, also called on police forces and the Federation to have longer term conversations with editors and journalists to help develop a better understanding of the realities of policing.

But Claire said she found the journalist a little defensive and explained: “If his one quote that I will remember is ‘perhaps we should get a thick skin’ is all I hear him say then, I’m not sure he could be persuaded to see it in an unbiased light?

“I agreed that good news sells less and is less appealing than negative stories so perhaps rather than trying to change a lot of opinions we need to work out how we change our approach.”

The national chair pointed out that the negative headlines and media coverage had a damaging impact not just on the officers involved and their families but also the reputation of the police service.

He said forces needed to be braver in putting out body-worn video to counter unbalanced footage and said it was incumbent on Federation branches to speak to chief officers about this since a National Police Chiefs’ Council policy was in place.

Pete Blamire, Staffordshire Police Federation treasurer, said after the session: “We do need to actively promote good policing, when circumstances allow it, to show the public what we have to deal with. I think this may well have a positive effect in relation to trial by media. A good debate on the whole, and we need to sell ourselves on good policing far more than we presently do.”