Policing: bemoaning Filkin tosh!

29 Fleet Street, City of London.
Fleet Street

Another piece of knee-jerk reaction to what was, in the main, little more than supposition and innuendo aimed at policing has been published. Recomendations that are mostly born out of hysteria and insinuation. One has to ask; was this piece of work actually required in the first place but more importantly, what will be the fallout from the report?

The politically driven recommendations, produced in an attempt to counter media fuelled public opinion, post the widely publicised, all be it worrying, News International phone hacking debacle, seems to suggest that all cops are bent and in the pockets of the press. As a result Dame Elizabeth Filkin, aka: The Madwoman in the Attic, has ruled in her report that police officers must keep a record of any conversation with journalists, amongst other condescending guidelines (see key recomendations).

In The Telegraph it was suggested that the Filkin Report was “patronising, bordering on offensive” where as conversley, The Guardian came out ‘in praise of Elizabeth Filkin’ saying she had; “produced a balanced and practical report on the ethical issues involved in relations between police and media.” Whether or not, as the latter article suggests, having a Filkin 20 years ago could/would have precluded the belated Lawrence case, is a somewhat tenuous suposition and a wholly different matter.

It has also been suggested that the “Filkin report proposals could shield criminals and corrupt officers” (see here). Duncan Campbell (The Guardian) outlines that; “While some of Dame Elizabeth’s recommendations about links between police and media are welcome, others spell danger.”

Richard Littlejohn, commenting in The Daily Mail probably produced the most humourous of articles. It may have been slightly tongue in cheek however, in my opinion, his piece served to provide a slightly less emotive and  more light-hearted view on the topic…

Dont drink that lager Guv, its not worth it …Patronising doesn’t begin to cover it. Her report is an insult to the intelligence of every serving police officer… It reads like a Victorian chaperone warning a virgin debutante about the bestial intentions of moustache-twirling serial seducers. When coming into contact with reporters, the police are advised to ‘watch out’ for . . . (Read more)

Littlejohn was also a little more curt than some, when it came to his views on the abilities and personal attributes of the report’s author…

Then again, what else should we expect from a self-righteous Grande Quangocrat, a former lecturer and community worker, who has never had a job in the real world and only mixes with other people like herself. (Richard Littlejohn)

As some of those reporting have highlighted; Filkin’s work might help to develop greater ‘transparency’ – a word so often used in an opaque manner – which must be seen as a benefit to all those involved, not least the public. However, many commentators (and I) also worry that her work; could easily be taken as a “wonderful excuse to keep the media even more firmly at arm’s length” (see here).

If the latter concern comes to fruition it would serve to turn the clocks of police/media relations back twenty years or more. Far less information about the issues that the public need to understand would be available, especially in relation to matters that form a bedrock for true public and community engagement. A factor wholly critical to the modern policing process.

And all this without even considering the undoubted masses of additional paperwork, backroom administration and audit processes required to support the suggested recordkeeping!

The report was, in reality, commissioned to examine the actions of a few but will subsequently be impacting upon all. In my opinion, it wasn’t really required in the first place; it is mostly destined to result in bad news, in every sense of the word.

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