A funny thing happened to me on social media recently. That is if you regard being called an absolute “p***k” and a “p*****k” as the cutting edge of humour.
To be honest, during more than 30 years as a police officer, being called names was not uncommon and probably the least of my concerns. It certainly prepared me for my current role. ‘Sticks and stones’ and all that.
A report on the Gloucestershire Live website about eight of our county’s finest taking a meal break at McDonald’s at 3.30 one morning prompted this latest episode: https://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/news/gloucester-news/what-you-call-eight-police-2266909
I have always advocated the need for our officers to be more visible and the advent of better mobile communications has made this possible. Both the Chief Constable and I have encouraged taking breaks in public places as Constabulary policy and I re-tweeted the story as a further sign of support.
Whilst I was gratified by the overwhelming support of police officers who re-tweeted, and the many others who did likewise, unfortunately, in the knee-jerk world of social media, not everyone saw it that way.
It was obvious that many of the respondents had not read the report, which, I am pleased to say, was also supportive. Instead, jumping to the conclusion I was criticising the officers, they leapt to their keyboards and launched a retaliatory strike both long and, in the nature of social media, quite venomous.
Anyone posting an opinion on any social media channel will know what a minefield it can be. But what annoyed me as much as anything was the often repeated, and wholly incorrect, accusation that I had no idea what it was like to do a night shift!
Perhaps that was why I took the unusual step of sending a direct message to one of my most ill-informed and foul-mouthed critics. Turned out he was an avid supporter of the police, Finn’s Law and as unlikely a ‘keyboard warrior’ as you might find. To his credit, he apologised unreservedly and removed his tweet straightaway.
The irony is that because so many people got the wrong end of the stick, the story attracted more attention that it might have otherwise merited. And as a result, more people now know it is part of my Police and Crime Plan to enhance neighbourhood policing.
Clearly, it’s an ill wind that blows through social media.