A major 'public interest' scoop?
It hasn't been an easy few days for the UK's police service. The Sun led the way by publishing pictures of Humberside police enjoying themselves on dodgems at the conclusion of a major fair in the city of Hull. The fact that police jumping on dodgems at the end of an event they'd been policing has been a tradition over decades clearly passed the Sun by as it did other media outlets who gleefully pounced on the story.
Local Humberside newspapers and indeed the public of Hull rallied to their police yet for those editors determined to continue their concerted campaign to denigrate police there appeared manna from heaven in the form of Avon and Somerset officers painting their finger nails blue. Those same editors must have felt Christmas had come early when it emerged that some Cardiff officers had been tottering around a mile long route in ladies' high heels then PCSO's were seen at community tea party wearing 'bear masks.'
The issue divided the normally united police social media community. Some felt that indulging in such activities were demeaning and undignified while others felt that showing a support for community issues and events was worthwhile. However there was a general consensus that these 'stunts' gave ammunition to those in the media whose mission appears to be to heap bile on a beleaguered police service.
I think I have to confess that as a retired officer I was, until the 'blue nails' story appeared, totally unaware that some workers in nail bars were trafficked slave workers. I am now.
To have officers tottering around Cardiff in high heels is perhaps more problematic especially in the event of them having to be called into action.Yet closer examination reveals that this was the fourth year of an annual 'white ribbon' event to highlight domestic violence which included men from a variety of occupations including police. The two 'bears' were at a community tea event in Nuneaton.
Of course there are times when public concern is reflected in the media. The Met's statement in respect of 'low level crime investigation' or the future lack of it provoked concern and indeed a letter from me which was published in several newspapers. Probable police station closures in London and Norfolk are also worthy of public debate and it should be remembered that police and their families are not immune from being the victims of crime and the ramifications of closed police stations. Interestingly though the Met have responded to criticism of their burglary investigation policy by launching a London wide operation against... burglars.
Crime Figures and Stunts
Of course, revelations concerning these 'stunts' came amidst the publication of crime figures which saw dramatic increases especially in violent crime. The 'stunts' of course whether desirable or demeaning would only take a tiny fraction of an individual officer's time for that day yet, with a predictable certainty, they were linked to the crime rise rather than the loss of 20,000 police officers plus thousands of PCSO's and 'backroom' staff.
Interesting too that the Daily Mail linked the above headline to criticism of police by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary that they failed to pursue human trafficking/slavery crime networks. Yet in an earlier Mail online article police were criticised in respect of being too lenient towards cannabis growers; one of the criticisms being;
Nuneaton: Praise where praise is due?
Interestingly, Sunday saw a dramatic event in Nuneaton where a male armed with a shotgun allegedly took two hostages at a bowling alley; ironically this area is policed by the same Warwickshire force whose officers were roundly criticised for the Nuneaton 'bear mask' incident and indeed it was officers from that force who brought a dangerous incident to a successful conclusion thanks to the professionalism and bravery of its officers. Yet in most newspaper reports there were facts but no praise. It wasn't mentioned at all in Monday's Daily Mail editorial which linked 'politically correct stunts' with the rise in crime.
Mocking criticism and ridicule: Keep calm and carry on.
Of course, as sections of the media search for stories which criticise and ridicule police, everyday police work continues. Officers, countless times a day will perform heroically, compassionately and professionally when confronting the most horrendous of situations. Only rarely will these actions be propelled into the public domain.
Yet despite the media onslaught, together with criticism from politicians of both left and right, public approval/trust ratings for police remain at around 66%; some 40 percentage points higher than those for both journalists and politicians.