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)