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To Blog or not to Blog

November 14, 2006

There was an article in last week’s Police Review, written by a serving Inspector, regarding the ethics of police blogging.

I hope that the editors won’t mind me copying the article, because it makes interesting reading, both for my blogging colleagues and members of the public.

What are your views?

It occurred to me recently that writing in Police Review would be a wonderful opportunity to emulate the officer who produces the now-famous ‘Policeman’s Blog’.

However, I immediately realised this was not a sensible option. As I write this column in my own name, my photo appears on the page and my byline identifies my employer, I am aware my bosses read this piece, so I have to behave myself.

I wonder if it is right for serving police officers to publish their ‘blogs’ under a cloak of anonymity. Does the public really want to know the reality of policing today, as portrayed by the bloggers? For whose benefit are the blogs written anyway?

As long as there is only general detail in a blog, and places and people cannot be identified, then it can be argued that no direct harm is done. But I believe it is when the public start reading, and believing, the various police blogs that there is a possibility of harm.

A significant part of our role is to fight the fear of crime, counteracting in a calm and measured way the headlines of the popular press that would have their readers believe that the country is being overrun by paedophiles, rapists, terrorists and murderers.

Our reassurances, as long as they remain credible, bring matters back into proportion and thereby improve the quality of life for the general public. It is not particularly helpful in this respect to write that ‘only three officers are available to cover a borough of a 100,000 residents’, to quote one blog.

Even if it is right, is the public any better off for knowing? There might be a case for raising issues of inefficiency, shortage of resources or poor management where these exist, but the public domain is not an effective place to do so.

A trawl of police blogs suggests the main causes of discontent are bureaucracy, the performance and target culture and a lack of apparent support from the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts.

Acronyms and jargon abound in many of the blogs and much of what is written requires some inside knowledge of policing to be fully appreciated. I am tempted to conclude, therefore, that most such blogs are written for a police audience and are primarily there to enable the writer to let off steam without fear of adverse consequences.

In an earlier article, I wrote that driving humour and cynicism underground does not by itself improve morale and that another outlet will be found. Perhaps anonymous blogs provide this safety valve for the opinions of jaded and frustrated officers.

However, I agree that airing such views in an appropriate forum is necessary, but washing our dirty linen in public is not the answer.

Insp Simon Hepworth works for West Yorkshire Police. These views are his own, not those of his force

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    November 14, 2006 14:42

    But if we, the public, never find out about the crushing paperwork, ridiculous target-driven culture and other bizarre and pointless things about modern police work, how can we know to complain about them to our democratically elected government who will address our concerns?

    Oh wait, they won’t, of course. They’ll just introduce another form to keep track of it.

  2. Anonymous permalink
    November 14, 2006 14:54

    What do I think, one word. Pillock.

  3. ExtraSpecialCopper permalink
    November 15, 2006 12:59

    I personally am not fussed if I was anonymous or not. Its my collegues and public who I dont want to bring into it!

  4. gonorr permalink
    November 15, 2006 16:13

    sounds like someone doesn’t want to hear the truth.

    I think the blogs about the NHS “get away” with it, as we all know and it’s been in the media how messed up the NHS is.

    On the other hand, regarding the post on your blog, it seems that denial is the order of the day. As a previous comment said “How can we know to complain about it.”

    Carry on the good work.

  5. Mick permalink
    November 15, 2006 19:43

    I wrote to Police review re this piece. I think they’re going to print my letter. It basically echo’s much of what was said above.

  6. Anonymous permalink
    November 17, 2006 04:03

    Ha, yes police blogs ARE necessary. It makes the public realize that police are human too.
    And when we realize what you guys go through on a daily basis, we try to be just a bit more considerate when we have to deal with police.
    Surely that is a good thing?

  7. PCSO permalink
    November 17, 2006 16:22

    I think the main point that he’s made, is that Police officers are not just here to uphold the law and investigate crime, but also combat the fear of crime.
    Blog’s like this, as entertaining as they may be, do nothing for the fear and perception of crime, in fact, they do the opposite.

    It’s a valid point.

    PCSO
    http://policecommunitysupportofficer.blogspot.com/

  8. Mick permalink
    November 18, 2006 00:12

    PCSO,
    Combat fear of crime, fine.
    But why should the public be sheltered from incompetency, frustration, outmoded working practices, shoddy equipment and demoralised officers?
    It’s called fostering unrealistic expectations

  9. Anonymous permalink
    November 20, 2006 15:35

    That’s right: toe the party line; keep the public in the dark. They public are too stupid to understand the truth anyway and too thick to notice if we don’t tell them the truth.

    Keep everything out of the public view; don’t tell the public anything at all, unless it is properly spin-doctored and so reflects credit on the government and their politically appointed senior policemen.

    That is the way evil propagates.

  10. Anonymous permalink
    November 21, 2006 13:01

    Picking up on one comment:
    It is not particularly helpful in this respect to write that ‘only three officers are available to cover a borough of a 100,000 residents’, to quote one blog.
    Even if it is right, is the public any better off for knowing?

    Too right the public is better off knowing! Only if they realise how few officers are acutally around will they be aware that something is wrong. Whole towns that maybe have two on duty, weekends where two shifts cannot cope with all the work coming in, why should this be only an internal, management issue?!

  11. Inspector Gadget permalink
    November 22, 2006 11:58

    Leave the poor old boy alone, he is clearly after his third pip and should be left to get on with it in peace! If you want to know what an Inspector REALLY thinks, read my Blog. Seriously, this made me so mad I could spit.

  12. Tash permalink
    November 22, 2006 17:59

    You may have noticed that Mr Hepworth used to fly hot air balloons for a living.
    You can take the man out of the hot air….

  13. PC Common Sense permalink
    November 23, 2006 23:37

    I read it over and over and still can’t believe it.
    I really do get very concerned at people within the Police FORCE who don’t want the public to know what level of service they are really getting.
    ‘I am aware my Bosses read this piece, so I have to behave’
    Says it all really!!

  14. Anonymous permalink
    November 24, 2006 09:40

    “I think the main point that he’s made, is that Police officers are not just here to uphold the law and investigate crime, but also combat the fear of crime.”

    No. The Government and its Senior Police Officers have given up trying to improve things and rely on spin and fabrication and drivel “there is no crime in Towerk Hamlets” for example.

    The public’s “fear of crime” is not because this message is suppressed by the writings of bloggers. It is because the message is absolutely unbelievable cr*p.

    However, the spin mob will never admit this, so they look for someone else to blame. It’s Stalinist “oh if we only had complete control of the message everyone would believe everything was wonderful”

    Get a clue. The reality of crime intervenes eventually.

    “Blog’s like this, as entertaining as they may be, do nothing for the fear and perception of crime, in fact, they do the opposite.”

    No, they don’t. They explain why the Police appear to do a rubbish job ; what the NE guy is complaining about.

    Why does it take ages for cops to attend the 999 call ? Because there’s not enough coppers actually out there working – they’re on stupid special units or admin skives or filling in paperwork.

    Also highlighting cr*p managers might actually help something be done about it. Spin and lies don’t help anyone (apart from criminals of course)

  15. exRUCtion permalink
    November 24, 2006 14:16

    He may appear scathing re remarks made on various blogs but he has done as much by highlighting the numbnuts who are leading us.

    He actually underlines the pathetic nature of the job ,concerns of the coal face workers and the focuses of the donkeys in charge .

    I think is a fairly smart tongue in cheek PC way of saying it’s time to get real as these blogs ain’t lying .

    The truth hurts the donkeys .
    It’s probably one of the few Police publications that these donkeys read.

  16. PC Bloggs permalink
    November 29, 2006 00:33

    “It occurred to me recently that writing in Police Review would be a wonderful opportunity to emulate the officer who produces the now-famous ‘Policeman’s Blog’.

    However, I immediately realised this was not a sensible option. As I write this column in my own name, my photo appears on the page and my byline identifies my employer, I am aware my bosses read this piece, so I have to behave myself. “

    Says it all really…

  17. Anonymous permalink
    December 2, 2006 03:27

    another poor fool that has swallowed the current politcal party line of talking shit.

    ostrich management at it’s best. i read these blogs with interest and with a huge sigh of relief that it is not just my force that could win the gold medal for incompetence.

    i love being a copper, and still enjoy my job, but it is bosses like this pillock that make life so difficult.

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