#SocialMedia: Inspector Gadget and Satyagraha

Inspector GadgetThis week saw the demise of Inspector Gadget (see below), now ‘followers’ and even the mainstream media are asking – Did he jump or was he pushed?

Gadget’s blog was active for seven years and enjoyed some 13M+ hits, more popular even than some political and/or media blogs and hardly the popularity expected of some ‘fringe’ commentator or “silly” author, as Gadget was once described by the then Policing Minister Nick Herbert.

Although his musings were often a little caustic, some would say bordering upon ranting, I for one would suggest the closing of his social media accounts will be a great loss to both the police and the public alike…

One of the best-known anonymous police bloggers and tweeters has ceased writing after seven years of providing a sometimes irreverent officers eye view of the world of policing – at a time when officers who blog or tweet unofficially are coming under increasing pressure to give up their activities…(guardian.co.uk)

But why did Gadget start blogging? As The Monday Books Blog (below) pointed out; we now live  in an era when many senior coppers are more adept at spin than in catching serious criminals. A factor that was probably the initial spark for Gadget and one that became clear after attending a training seminar.

He said it was “60 mind-numbing minutes of complete nonsense” but it was also his love of and for ‘the job’ that was always behind his comment. That and a desire to explain to those he served (the public), what was happening to their police service and why.

Inspector Gadget – Officer Down: …This country’s police were once the envy of the world; now they struggle to retain the confidence of their own people and have long since lost the support and confidence of the British public…(The Thin Blue Line Blog)

As Gadget et al continually pointed out, much to the annoyance of their senior officers and politicians alike; our British policing system is now “weighed down by political correctness, burdensome targets, excessive paperwork, non-core police activity and incessant government tinkering”.

Few blogs last anything like that long – certainly not when they’re updated two or three times a week…(The Monday Books Blog)

There are fewer officers than ever before on our streets. Policing still requires a root and branch overhaul – not the piecemeal structural reform so beloved of successive governments. As many have pointed out previously and I include myself here; “there needs to be a cultural rejuvenation that restores to trained professionals the freedom to take their own decisions”, obviously within the law. The following strap line to Gadget’s blog was chosen with good reason.

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing…(Edmund Burke)

Four days ago Gadget wrote what I believe was his final post – George Dixon wouldn’t have stood for this crap – in it he wrote; “Here, as Rodgers and Hammerstein once wrote, are some of my favourite things… Favourite Colour: Blue Favourite Book: 1984, George Orwell. Favourite Film: The Great Escape Overall Favourite Quote: “I am no Inspector Gadget” Tim Godwin OBE QPM, Dep Commissioner, Met Police . Favourite Quote about me: “He is not an Inspector” Nick Herbert.”

Those close to the Gadget say “he has grown frustrated at the cuts to the police service and feels he is unable to enact any change through his writing.” It is not known whether he has been directly warned by senior officers in his force however; he’s actually quit at a time when several officers tweeting under pseudonyms say they are being intimidated off social media by their bosses.
 
Too many senior police officers, politicians and business managers espouse continually about supporting  openness honesty and freedom of speech for their employees however; it appears comment is only ever allowed freely when it tows the corporate line and certainly never if it appears to question the capability and ethics of the organisational leadership. If this is true and I suspect it is, this is not only a worrying trend but also, it flies in the face of recent and much heralded changes to government policy designed to protect public sector whistleblowers.

Whistleblowing legislation is to be overhauled and a government consultation held to investigate whether the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 is failing to protect those who speak out from being victimised, harassed and even sacked by their employers…(guardian.co.uk)

Social media platforms can be very powerful tools and should always be used responsibly. Over recent years there have been many people, for whatever reason, use social media as a platform for their rantings and defamatory, discriminatory or malicious purposes. Social media has given a louder voice to the individual however; there is a fine line between acceptable and improper use and behaviour.

A political blogger who sparked online uproar after being arrested for filming a council hearing has been ordered to pay £25,000 in libel damages to a council’s chief executive over what the high court described as an “unlawful campaign of harassment, defamation and intimidation”…(guardian.co.uk)

Most professional people acknowledge the fact that in sensitive jobs like the police, military and healthcare, Twitter and Facebook needs to be used with the greatest of care. It’s one of the reasons why so many have individuals have feared using it and why so many organisations still frown upon its use by their employees however; it is possible to make social media work professionally. Every organisation needs to understand the implications of social media and have a policy about how it should be used.

I have read the ACPO guidelines on social media use for police officers so you don’t have to. I totally get the operational and personal security stuff. Let me summarise my views on the rest for you. It is the people who make and implement stupid decisions who damage public confidence, not the people who write about it…(Inspector Gadget)

In 1921 C.P. Scott, Editor of The Guardia.n at the time said “Comment is free but facts are sacred” – we all have an entitlement to our opinion, shouldn’t those comments be listened to (and acted upon) when they’re delivered by someone who knows/understands what they are talking about and are based upon fact?

Individuals and/or organisations should have no fears about social media, so long as it is being used properly and factually however; what they do need to worry about is having their ineptitude exposed because of it.

Perhaps a few more of us should try to adopt a little of Gandhi‘s methodology and insist on some truth – the Satyagraha ethos – “be the change you wish to see in the world.”

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About Dave Hasney

National Coordinator for UK SMART Recovery - Previously a Recovery Worker and prior to that a Management Consultant and H&S Practitioner - Kept sane by Angling, Good Food, Real Ale & Wine - Cynical thoughts sometimes developed from others.

Posted on 15-03-2013, in Leadership & Management, Police, Society Babble and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Seems as if everyone else in every other walk of life is free and encouraged to speak out about issues of public interest except police officers. The closed shop mentality does nothing but erode confidence in the service still further. Like many, I didn’t agree with everything Gadget said, but his heart and soul are in the right place, focused on restoring common sense policing for the sake and safety of us all. Pushing boundaries is sometimes necessary to get people to sit up and listen. Hardly surprising and totally human if the line is crossed inadvertently sometimes, either out of sheer frustration maybe, but rarely out of kilter with public support. If this is indeed the last we have seen of the Guvnor, the public and serving guys and gals have lost a passionate and eloquent voice for reform.
    Steve – thinbluelineuk

    Like

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