Social Media: The PC James Patrick case #PFTP

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Recent events have shown it’s obvious that our police forces, along with their senior management teams (and some other public sector organisations), aren’t as comfortable with their staff use of social media as they actually purport to be…

On the one hand they actively promote public engagement via these modern mediums of communication yet on the other, especially when something is said that senior managers aren’t comfortable with, the full weight of their ‘professional standards departments’ immediately swing into action and come crashing down on ‘miscreant’ staff.

But much of this heavy handed-handed action often results from; (1) a lack of clearly defined policy on the ‘correct’ use of social media and (2) a distinct lack of training and/or information before users are let loose with these powerful forms of communication.

In the early days of public sector blogging, particularly within the police service, many social media users tended to publish anonymously. Most of that anonymity was born out of the author’s need to protect themselves from investigation and consequently, the possible impacts upon their careers (and family) resulting from any disciplinary action.

It wasn’t, as suggested by many managers who were seeking to negate (uncomfortable) information which had been placed in the public domain; merely a medium chosen by some people with a chip on their shoulder, or some personal axe to grind, to publish spurious and fictitious stuff for their own personal benefit.

There may have been a little of the latter but in the main many people believe; bloggers such as the now world-famous PC David Copperfield, who wrote the best-selling Wasting Police Time, along with Inspector Gadget and WPC Bloggs (both of whom also became relatively succesful authors), where mostly trying to inform the public about many of the unknown and misunderstood realities impacting upon modern-day policing.

By simply trying to tell society (who pay for policing but often don’t receive value for money) about the real issues that often prevent actual service delivery matching the public (media led) expectations, these bloggers subsequently left themselves open to castigation by the myriad of politicians and senior police leaders who were often attempting to disguise fact (or keep it secret) from the public. Issues like the ones which Stuart Davidson (aka PC David Copperfield) later highlighted in July 2010, without cover from his previous nom de plume.

The prophets of doom say Home Office cuts will hand Britain’s streets to criminals: 60,000 police jobs could go, says the BBC; the Association of Chief Police Officers thinks 20,000 bobbies could be sacked. I read these reports from across the Atlantic – having left the British police to join a force in Canada two years ago – with bemusement. My experience tells me that you could easily slash billions from budgets and actually improve policing, which is now a job creation scheme for bureaucrats…(Stuart Davidson)

Because it was often far too easy for politicians and senior police leaders to rubbish the anonymous blogs, suggesting that if information was true the authors would divulge their true names, many bloggers have now resorted to identifying themselves. A necessary move to provide credence to and belief in their work, as well as trying to negate or prevent the predominant actions of political and senior leadership

James Patrick is one of those ‘open’ and identified bloggers, or he was until recently (see here). As a serving Police Officer with the Metropolitan Police Force he chose to take that enormous risk and write under his real name. A personal choice, made out of the desire for openness and honesty, which has now sadly resulted in the fears that many of those anonymous bloggers worried about before him.

A Metropolitan Police officer who blew the whistle on funding cuts and creeping privatisation is facing a gross misconduct inquiry and has been ordered not to communicate with the public…(times.co.uk)

Until recently James was an active user of social media he was a blogger and a user of Twitter. He did this under his own name and made no attempt to remain anonymous. His enjoyable and highly acclaimed Police Debating Directive blog was penned to cover topics surrounding the so-called government led Police Reform now taking place. 

James’ blogging efforts resulted in a book, The Rest is Silence where James’ passion for a job like no other shines through and evidences his burning desire to serve and protect the public.

How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world”. Because the service I love and, the public I serve, deserve better: I’m shining a light…(James Patrick)

But since November 2012 James has now effectively been silenced by his employer (see Media Statement). He cannot say anymore and he cannot ask for your help or he could be dismissed, but no one can stop others asking on his behalf. The Many Voices Blog are actually now doing that on James’ behalf by calling for those who support James (in person or in principle) to contact their MP (see here).

…it occurs to me that preventing Officer Patrick from speaking out is more likely to be in the interests of the Metropolitan Police Service than in the interests of the public and I would question the legality of these actions under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights…(manyvoicesblog.wordpress.com)

The above (heavy-handed) action against James, is evidence to support a widely held belief within the service; you’re only allowed to say anything you want when the management give you authority to say it. Is that really the way we should run a professional and accountable police service?

Meanwhile the senior management team at Ruralshire Constabulary (and in many other forces no doubt), probably due to a poor understanding of the Seven-Ps, have just woken up to the fact that it is Christmas on 25th December. This has resulted in Christmas effectively being cancelled for a large number of Police Officers (see here).

Perhaps some of this will help you to understand why serving police officers have been blogging? It should also serve to explain why the normal seasonal greeting from so many front-line police officers is; Merry bloody humbug!

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About Dave Hasney

Management consultant and H&S Practitioner - Retired N.Yorks Police Officer - Kept sane by Angling, Good Food, Real Ale & Wine - Cynical thoughts sometimes developed from others.

Posted on December 6, 2012, in Emergency Services, Management, Police, Politics, Public Sector, Technology and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on retiredandangry and commented:
    You’ve had RetiredandAngry, now read Grumpy’s view on the James Patrick case #PFTP

  1. Pingback: Dave's Bankside Babble

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