The Nick: Are the police honest with themselves?

Mounted officer of the Metropolitan Police at ...

Mounted officer of the Metropolitan Police at Buckingham Palace, London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On 2 September 2015, the show The Nick was broadcast on ITV1 channel.[1] It covered policing in Sussex. Like the 24hrs in Police Custody and other programmes or The Met, it offered a behind the scenes look day-to-day UK policing. Two issues are noteworthy. First, that it asked for public feedback the next day.

Morning, if you watched #TheNick last night we want to know how you feel about us and your county. Tell us here:

The police are using the programme to measure public engagement and by extension public approval. The method is statistically dubious yet it is likely to be used in funding debates and media releases that justify their work.[2] However, that is only a symptom of the second, deeper, issue.

A good show but is it reality?

The Sussex police put on a good show. Officers dealt with the public in difficult circumstances. The programme gives them a chance to tell the public their story. In a time where police budges are being reduced, it allows them to influence public opinion. The public have a human context that is often missed by fictionalized “cop” shows like the Bill or Babylon. At the end of it, we all feel better.

Is it honest?

On the surface, we want to believe this is policing and the police want us to believe that his is an honest portrayal of police life. The problem though is that it is not honest. The police are not honest with the public and they are not honest with themselves. If we stay on the surface, we miss the deeper question. The show itself is not contrived. These are real situations and these are real officers. What is contrived is the honesty.

Is honesty too painful for the police and the public?

The shows suggest that the police do not want to tell the truth about policing. They want us to accept the myth that policing is by consent as it suits their interest. Their inability to portray the reality of policing suggests the police are not honest with themselves as they cannot be honest with the public. Two issues are readily apparent. The police do not mention or confront the code of silence. This is the reality of UK policing. Second, they do not confront the issue of corruption. We never see a corrupt officer in any but fictionalized programmes. An honest view of UK Policing would show us the complaints process and complaint investigations.

Can the public handle the true cost of policing?

Are all officers corrupt or bullies? No. Is policing corrupt? No. However, the police programmes never address these issues. They show happy, shiny police officers. We never see the senior officers who decide not to continue an investigation or manage a complaint of bullying. It is only when we have an insight into the decision making that shapes the policing culture will we begin to have an honest view of the police. Only then can the public understand what is required to maintain public order and at what cost.

[1] Here is a review of the programme

[2] The survey asks five questions.

Please score from 1 – 5, where 1 is negative and 5 is positive.

  1. If someone you know became a victim of crime how confident are you in Sussex Police’s ability to appropriately respond?
  2. How professional do you think the people working for Sussex Police are?
  3. How safe do you feel living / working in Sussex?
  4. What level of trust do you have in Sussex Police to deal with every person fairly?

The questions provide feedback yet, their design offers the opportunity to skew the results. The topics are vague, the scoring method does not reflect the questions and the last question asks a contingent question.


About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
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2 Responses to The Nick: Are the police honest with themselves?

  1. Not a bad but could do better. Policing has changed very much over the years and not for the better. Like nursing it used to be a vocation but now it is a profession which changes the whole concept of policing from being a truly public service (wanting to help people) to becoming a self fulfilling prophecy where they exist simply to to serve themselves. Those on the promotion ladder do not reach higher ranks by being good to the public, instead they do so by having a strong strategic perspective on taking the organisation forward, budget management and thinking purely of being able to get one step ahead of any other colleague who is also on the promotion race. With leaders/manager like that then they are unlikely to be honest with themselves never mind anyone else

  2. Pingback: Cheryl James, Deepcut and the Army’s propaganda machine | Media Meditations

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