You could almost hear the collective audible groan from police officers across the UK as footage emerged on social media of an officer allegedly transgressing in front of the inevitable mobile phone camera. The officer has now been suspended and the incident referred to the Independent Office for Police Complaints.
The incident has raised however, once again the issue of mental health amongst police officers and staff which has only relatively recently been deemed an issue worthy of serious scrutiny, not that this will be of any interest whatsoever to the legions of those who constantly denigrate.
Front line police officers would admit that with the hastily introduced Coronavirus legislation compounded by the even more confusing clarification by the National Police Chiefs Council, mistakes have been made yet these are being widely publicised and are being portrayed as ‘the norm’ by the media and equally predictably, by those on social media who loathe police.
The almost ludicrous imbalance in respect of press coverage of police ‘stories’ is illustrated by the Martis Media study published recently.
Unlike other countries, the UK’s police appear to have become the whipping boys (and girls) in respect of this crisis. There is no doubt that sections of the media appear desperate for ‘anti-police’ stories; this from the Daily Mail.
Even the ITV opted to follow the trend with this request to the public although it was later withdrawn
The disparity between coverage given to police and those working heroically for the NHS is clearly shown in the Mail’s coverage of these two stories.
The term ‘heavy handed policing was used in a widely publicised altercation between Met Territorial Support Group officers and a journalist who demanded that as a journalist, he be allowed to film the arrest of a drunken female.
According to numerous tweeters this was simply yet another example of a police state.
You should be dancing……not
As an east London child, I used to be fascinated as to how the locals survived the blitz and conversations I had with those who lived through it proved invaluable as has further research. It seems self-depreciation and dark humour were key as was grabbing fun whenever it was available thereby escaping from the grim daily reality of death and destruction.
Dancing police officers have been an issue for decades; it surfaces every year as the Notting Hill carnival approaches!!!
Personally, I’ve no strong feelings on the issue and the number of police dancing videos is dwarfed by the number ‘produced’ by hard pressed NHS workers.
I did find it interesting that in a predictable Daily Mail article slamming Sandbach police for performing ‘Staying Alive,’ there was significant if not majority support for police amongst the 1,600 posted comments.
A reasoned, measured tweet by retired police officer and victims champion Norman Brennan asking officers to ‘stop,’ drew a huge response, but again in the replies, there was again significant, if not majority support, for dancing police.
Singing and dancing police appear to have become a feature throughout the world. The normally robust Spanish police performing the ‘baby shark’ dance is a sight to behold while singing and dancing police could be found across India, in Panama, Columbia, Mexico and Poland.
Criticism here from serving and retired police has generally been measured but some attacks have been quite vitriolic.
It should be remembered that whatever views are held in respect of dancing police officers, firefighters, paramedics and NHS staff, ALL those on the front line dealing with the current nightmare situation, at no small risk to themselves, are heroes.
A bridge causing troubled waters
More flak headed the way of police, principally the Met, last Thursday evening during the 8pm ‘clap for heroes.’ The previous week, NHS workers at St Thomas’s hospital were clearly delighted with the turnout of police, firefighters and paramedics on the adjacent Westminster Bridge. The evening was a victim of its own success and the following week (the 16th of April) even more police vehicles arrived as did paramedics and firefighters.
A video was taken which showed that some members of public had found their way onto the bridge and there were clear issues of social distancing. The result was outrage, mainly on social media and from not just the usual police critics but again from some serving and many retired officers.
In fact, similar scenes were to be found right across the country as front-line police, firefighters and paramedics flocked to show their support for and boost morale of NHS staff working in hospitals. At Leeds, the Yorkshire Post positively enthused over the scenes where again social distancing was clearly an issue.
Yorkshire Evening post Leeds infirmary story
Of course, NHS staff could well argue that social distancing is not a practical proposition in their working environment and a few minutes spent outside the hospital will add little to their risk or the risk of others. The same could be said for other 999 services. Police officers have been criticised for not social distancing when double crewed and equally absurd tweets have even referred to the failure of police to socially distance themselves in custody suites or when carrying out stop/searches.
Whilst most will understand issues in respect of social distancing for emergency services, NHS and care workers, critics do have a point when it comes to setting an example given the oft quoted, lifesaving mantra that social distancing saves lives.
This article will be submitted for publication before the nationwide display of support on St. Georges Day, Thursday April the 23rd. It will be interesting to see what happens then in and around the nation’s hospitals.
A Policeman’s lot is definitely not currently a happy one
The police community were, it would be fair to say, absolutely staggered when the Home Office responded to media interpretation of a poll in respect of police actions during the coronavirus epidemic.
.@SkyNews this headline is misleading. The research found 74% of the public support the police approach. They’re doing a fantastic job keeping us safe & protecting the NHS by ensuring the public #StayHomeSaveLives using emergency powers only when necessary (1/2)— Home Office (@ukhomeoffice) April 8, 2020
Those who felt police have occasionally gone too far would undoubtedly have been influenced by the relatively few controversial, but widely publicised incidents be they fake news or true. Once news appears on social-media it gains a life of its own. Police were preventing shoppers purchasing Easter Eggs and were poised in supermarket aisles ready to determine what was essential shopping and what wasn’t.
One of the more dangerous items of fake news is featured here, initiated by a journalist and firmly put to bed by two Labour councillors.
Pics like this are so deceiving & there are always 2 sides to every story.— Councillor Khayer Chowdhury (@khayerc) April 20, 2020
Turns out he was not asked to leave the park at any point by the officers.
They asked him to be careful as he was playing tennis against wall with windows on it.
Almost 5k people RT’d this fake news. https://t.co/3fZj2qoOYP
Another item of fake news that was captured on a mobile phone by the ‘victim’ of ‘over-zealous’ concerned police breaking down a door in order to terminate a house-party. In fact, police were responding to a ‘concern for welfare’ call perhaps either from the victim or a concerned friend/ neighbour.
After establishing that the abusive occupier was OK the officers left. In the current situation, police are constantly responding to concern for welfare calls and at one, in Basingstoke, an officer was stabbed.
There is a strong belief that constant media denigration in emboldens criminal elements to such as extent that the dangers to officer’s increase.
There have been numerous reports from police of officers being spat at, coughed on, bitten or otherwise threatened with Coronavirus.
In other attacks, police vehicles have been damaged. Some of these attacks have been reported in the media but the national press, more concerned with police transgressions, very occasionally report the facts with no expressions of empathy or sympathy.
THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE- Tonight whilst dealing with a report of a house party, in Whitworth. One of our vehicles carrying two police dogs inside was bricked, showering the dogs with glass! Thankfully both dogs are uninjured however it took a response vehicle off the road #T1Dogs pic.twitter.com/04Lws8TtXi— Lancs Police DogUnit (@LancsPolDogUnit) April 20, 2020
Any visitor from outer space, would currently assume that the efforts of the UK’s police were devoted to harassing and making life as uncomfortable for the populace as possible.
Yet the media has unsurprisingly failed to inform the public that the ‘over-zealous’ officers of the 43 police forces of England and Wales have each issued an average of………five penalty tickets per force per day.
There is little mention in the media of police carrying out numerous ‘concern for welfare’ visits in respect of the elderly and the vulnerable including those who are potential victims of domestic violence, child abuse or who have mental health issues which may well be exacerbated by the current situation.
Some of those visits end in heartbreak. One of the most recent concerned that of an NHS nurse who died alone of CV-19 after self-isolating. That incident is but one example of the many which will never leave the memories of those officers who had to break into his premises or other premises.
Despite the hostility towards police which seems, as opposed to Europe, unique across the UK, there are golden moments when members of the public show their appreciation which in turn, illustrates the ‘norm’ of policing activity rather than the collective smearing policy of the mainstream media.
Policing has gone through, perhaps its darkest period, during the past ten years. Politicians have now found it expedient to repair relations with police and restore numbers to the miserly levels of 2010 yet the legacy of their hostility and that of the media remains. This is in contrast to the majority of the public who, despite the constant negativity, still support ‘their police.’
Well Done #EssexPolice— Linda Belgrove (@lindabelgrove) April 14, 2020
Reported a Concern for Welfare in my village yesterday.
Excellent response from Control & a thorough check by officers attending.
Thank you !@BJH251 @DCCPippaMills #StaySafeStayHome
A lady who I support, who has poor mental health, was stopped by a @ClevelandPolice officer in #middlesbrough to ask why she was out. When she told them it was for her MH, they took time to see if she was ok. They were caring. Important to share the positive side of policing??♂️?— Stephanie Addison (@steph_addison) April 15, 2020
Now, on top of the well- established difficulties faced by officers during recent years, including being assaulted (attacks upon officers have increased in number and severity), they are now plunged into the most serious and deadly national crisis since World War 2.
The biggest challenge in terms of a potential economic collapse, may be yet to come. If this leads to serious public disorder on the streets, doubtless some of those currently hurling abuse at police on social media will be amongst those throwing missiles at officers and looting. Meanwhile armchair critics and keyboard warriors will doubtless be frantically reaching for their phones and demanding assistance from those whom they despise.
It will of course, if humanely possible, be given.