Investigative Journalism: Public Interest or Emotive Witch-Hunt?

English: Metropolitan Police Officers in Soho,...
Our Police?

Much like the ‘suspicions’ expressed by many of our so-called investigative journos, from time to time, I also have a propensity to harbour concerns about the actual motives driving their work ethics. I suppose trying to answer the question, who is the most paranoid, would probably result in a subjective conclusion… 

This week, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), a not-for-profit organisation based at City University, London, is launching its latest ‘project’ – an in-depth investigation about Deaths in Police Custody.

The initial analysis for the series would seem to suggest; hundreds of people dying at the hands of the police and police officers are escaping punishment for this heinous crime. Not so!

But don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to placate public concerns with platitudes about any excessive use of force, or abuse of authority. Any death in police custody is a sad (sometimes avoidable) event, not least for those police officers involved in the circumstances leading to that death.

Because of the often mischievous and emotive methods of many of our journalists, some individuals within our society find it far too easy to castigate our police. For any failure, no matter how tenuous the link between their actions/inactions and the final result. Why is this?

Do we hold the belief that every surgeon who ‘lost’ a patient on the operating table, is another Harold Shipman? Do we look at every school caretaker as an Ian Huntley? Even the pacifists and conscientious objectors amongst us have a tendency to support our military personnel. It’s somewhat bazar that, irrespective of any vociferous condemnation of the politicians who sent them to war, most still respect our military and look upon them with pride.

The common factor here is that, despite all the above actually serving our society, there is an underlying tendency to dislike and/or mistrust those who challenge our behaviour. Much as many children don’t like teachers and parents telling them what to do (if they don’t want to do it), many adults also don’t take well to being prevented from doing whatever they want to do (and are non compliant). Even when their desires/habits have a negative impact upon others, or they’re in contravention of our democratically developed legislation.

In a related article, from The Independent, about police restraint techniques (see below), the Metropolitan Police Commander responsible for self-defence and restraint at the Association of Chief Police Officers, said:-

Where an individual is violent and represents a danger to themselves and the public, the police are rightly expected to restrain them for their own safety and to protect other members of the public. Foremost in officers’ minds is the safe resolution to volatile situations, not a medical diagnosis…(Simon Pountain)

Despite the fact many will assume, considering my background, that I am bound to be supportive of the police. Let me assure you, nothing could be further from the truth, especially where any wrongdoing or abuse of power is concerned. However, this almost constant vilification of our police service actually does more to reduce even further the already limited levels of support they enjoy. This now predominant trait simply serves to undermine the concept of policing by consent. A slippery slope towards the police state that so many (wrongly) believe we already reside in.

I look forward to reading and learning from the content of the BIJ articles however; there is a media tendency towards achieving the exact opposite to the desired/perceived results. As the vast majority of our police officers work for our society, not against it, isn’t it time we tried to examine the police in a far more supportive and objective manner?

One thought on “Investigative Journalism: Public Interest or Emotive Witch-Hunt?

  1. A serving police officer replied to my Twitter feed on this post subject…

    Excited delirium is something I have witnessed at first hand – I wonder if those who looked at this study have? Let alone had the nightmare of trying to do the right thing knowing that all your action/inaction is recorded in the custody suite… Criminal liability in respect of acts and omissions spring to mind, as does – ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ or further down the line – ‘guilty’ of an act or ‘guilty’ of an omission!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.