Monday, 21 September 2015

Twits Brought Tweeting to Policing

BBC News: Leicestershire Police ignore burglaries at odd-numbered houses

A trial scheme to send police forensic experts to only even-numbered houses, obviously this tickles me hugely, but it's a fishy piece of writing.

Police forces send a civilian forensic investigator (SOCO – Scenes Of Crime Officer) to every burglary except those where there is absolutely no opportunity for forensic evidence. They look for fingerprints, shoe-prints, fibres, blood, anything that might provide a lead to the offender. They are not police officers.

Indeed, every crime that has potential for forensic evidence receives a visit from a SOCO.

If it didn't, the senior officers up the chain would be exposing themselves to disciplinary action.

The Leicestershire Police director of forensic sciences, Jo Ashworth, seems to admit that this pilot scheme did happen, although it surely can't be that only burglaries of even-numbered houses were investigated, for the reason I've stated above.

As much as I enjoy fair (and amusing) discussion of police mismanagement, the writers of these kinds of articles often rely heavily upon the prejudice of police-hating readers. This author has chanced his arm by writing a piece with almost no details or verifiable facts.

Much more clarity is needed. What exactly is it that the even-numbered houses received that the odd-numbered ones didn't?

If Leicestershire Police only investigate burglaries on one side of the street, we desperately need to open that can of worms. So, how about some proper investigation before publishing?

One thing though: if senior managers fail to realise how a pilot scheme such as this might appear to the public, we can see the level of thinking of the managers in today's police forces.

Moving on, this interested me too:

The Guardian: Today's police officers dream of going viral

It's an attention-seeking Wiltshire Police superintendent – broadcasting footage of himself in uniform outside Ted Heath's house. He mentions possible abuse allegations against the former PM and asks that viewers phone in with any information they have.

To me this seems odd and inappropriate. It's very easy to stand outside anybody's house idly wondering about their misdemeanours, soliciting allegations and tittle-tattle from the world at large.

Let me get something out of the way: the piece is laden with supposition, and the Marina Hyde's tone is predictably and boringly caustic and biased. It's lazy writing, and one of a thousand similar police-bashing pieces.

If we want a better criminal justice system we writers need to publish reasoned and constructive arguments and discussion. Not sabre-rattling polemic.

She implies that 'the police' are abusing social media. The managers – such as the Wiltshire superintendent – may well be, but even the title of the article is based upon an assumption that constables and senior managers are a homogenous mass with equal responsibility for police practices.

The reality is that the chief constables and Commissioner decide the practices their officers will follow. The constables have no power to do more than roll their eyes and do exactly what they're told, if they want to keep their jobs. 

Over the last couple of years I have certainly seen Twitter rear its head in policing. Chief Inspectors eager for promotion have been forcing their sergeants to open Twitter accounts, as if they don't already have a hundred tasks to do each day. No doubt the pressure has originated much higher; far above my pay grade.

People complain that the service is failing, but yet we're drawn into ever more demands on our time.

On Neighbourhood Policing Teams, the policy is that the sergeants, PCs and community officers must now habitually issue bland tweets.

For example: “We're on the High Street right now. Come and say hi!” 

Giving officers' locations and activities creates risks. Burglars and drug dealers can now follow the movements of the cops, and avoid them.

And if a person wants to assault an officer - and plenty of people do - it won't take a lot of work to locate one cop on her own.

The tweets sometimes show the officers taking a break in a cafe, and the responses from local residents inevitably include helpful statements such as:

“Haven't they got better things to do? We don't pay them to drink tea.”

Does policing really need to jump on every fad and passing bandwagon?