Monthly Archives: March 2013
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) says it “finds a case to answer for gross misconduct” against the former West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison - sad for him but even sadder for British policing…
IPCC Media Release: …This case should also serve as a salutary reminder to chief officers everywhere of how much public confidence in policing is damaged when the conduct of leaders is called into question…(ipcc.gov.uk)
The impacts for the ‘offender’ may be limited, at least in punitive terms, now he has retired from policing but there are bigger issues involved here. Save from Bettison’s monumental fall from grace, after what was previously a distinguished career, his actions will also have ramifications for policing as a whole.
The result of the investigation may (thankfully) go someway towards placating the angst of Hillsborough Disaster families, members of the public who have been looking for answers for a lifetime but as always with cases like this one, there is also a greater impact upon our society.
Bettison, like any other public servant not least a high-ranking one, carried a great deal of responsibility on his shoulders during his career. This, responsibility was not simply for the operational and management decisions in policing but also, the maintenance and furtherance of public support for that role in our society.
The Bettison case is not just a sad end to what was supposed to have been a long and distinguished career; it’s yet another nail in the coffin of the British concept of policing by consent. Public support for that process is often based upon perception rather than fact. Views and opinions that are formed from a combination of political rhetoric, journalistic interpratation, contrived public relations activities and the personal performance of individuals.
Every person who dons that uniform (of whatever rank) must remember; they are not just a police officer but also an ambassador for the policing process. Their performance and interactions with others will always form the basis of how policing is perceived and judged by the public – a fact that many self-serving, self-promoting police officers would do well to remember!
- Why is Bettison being investigated over Hillsborough? (itv.com)
- IPCC report on Bettison claims due (bbc.co.uk)
- Gross misconduct: The case against Hillsborough police chief Norman Bettison (yorkshirepost.co.uk)
- Norman Bettison ‘has case to answer’ over Hillsborough report response (guardian.co.uk)
- Sir Norman Bettison ‘would have been sacked’ had he not quit (thetimes.co.uk)
Many from within the ranks of British policing constantly bemoan the apparent decline in public support for the job they do however; as I’ve written before, policing is often the engineer of its own demise…
The photograph on the right, which is an example in point, is currently circulating via social media. The posting was aimed at Hampshire Constabulary in this instance and was annotated with the following message…
“Could you kindly explain your officers reasoning for parking illegally over the disabled bay? I happen to know that they were getting a takeaway so had no reason to park in this way! I fully expect a public apology as to why our tax money is being spent employing officers who do what they want because they drive a blue and yellow car! No wonder the police get a bad name when your officers have such a blatant disregard for the law themselves. This photo was taken tonight 23/03/2013 at Hedge End McDonald’s.”
It was posted to Facebook by someone called Chris The-Stig Burrows. The ‘abandonment’ (aka parking) of the patrol car (see location on Google Maps) may not have actually inconvenienced anyone on this occasion but that isn’t the point. The poster has raised a valid and pertinent issue here, being a police officer does not mean – Do as I say not as I do!
A message on the Hampshire Constabulary Facebook page read: ‘We’d like to reassure you though that on this occasion the officer in question was responding to an emergency – and was not in a hurry for a McFlurry.’ (Metro News)
In the few days since posting, no doubt aided by additional local media interest, the picture has been quickly circulated far and wide. At the time I saw it there were 9,365 ‘shares’ 13,607 ‘comments’ and 68,710 people had ‘liked’ the picture. To be fair a good deal of the comments I read were actually broadly supportive of the police however; a great deal were not and it is those which are damaging. Irrespective of the juvenile, puerile or inane nature of many, disparaging comments about policing, justified or not, ultimately produce a knock-on effect and mostly negative impact on public perception of policing.
The ‘official’ police comment to the posting suggested that the occupants of the police vehicle were responding to a disturbance complaint at McDonald’s, not buying a take-away. Whatever the true facts of the story, the fallout from the picture and the subsequent derogatory comments about the police could (possibly) have been avoided.
It frustrates me when I see examples of police officers who clearly aren’t striving to be above reproach. How can they enjoy any respect from a public who, rightly or wrongly in these circumstances, perceive there is one law for them and one for the police?
With the advances in smart-phone technology and everyone’s ability to rapidly circulate images and opinion via social media; you would think that police officers would be even more aware and savvy about how the public observe them. Even more than was the case in my day - Perhaps not?
Perhaps some police officers, in extremely limited numbers I would suspect, don’t actually care about public opinion or how they are perceived by those they are responsible for serving? Perhaps they really do look upon the public with ‘us and them’ mentality and attitude today?
Could the picture have been simply mischievous? An action born out of a personal gripe or grievance from someone who has recently fallen foul of road traffic legislation and/or enforcement? Especially as the author’s choice of nickname suggests; he believes himself to be reminiscent of a motoring icon with immense driving ability.
Many of those commenting on the picture don’t actually know all the facts, me included but sadly and in many ways, the damage has already been done. Incidents such as this, no matter how minor or silly, all actually help to bolster support for government ’attacks’ on policing.
- British Policing: The Engineer of It’s Own Demise? (bankbabble.wordpress.com)
- Police officers quizzed after parking in disabled bay at McDonald’s (metro.co.uk)
- Police officers caught parking van on double yellow lines as they went to Sainsbury’s to buy lunch (thisismoney.co.uk)
- ‘The police are constantly under attack from the government’ (guardian.co.uk)