Social Media Is Not Without Its Risks

The dust hasn’t even settled on the James Patrick situation.  We haven’t heard the last of that yet

Now we have another absolute travesty of justice (justice?) or so it would seem.

It seems as though the wrong man has been sacked for being a Twitter user.

I’m not familiar with either of the Account Holders, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored.

If the blog STOP STIGMA is to be believed, an Avon and Somerset Police Officer has been sacked for being Twitter User @TheBritishCop.

I don’t know the true identity of either person, nor if they are even known to each other, but I suspect not.

The full story, together with various links, can be found on the above blog.  The main problem, however, is that the Professional Standards Department of Avon and Somerset Police have allegedly conducted a disciplinary hearing and ignored the fact that the officer was not the correct one.

The head of A&S Professional Standards has allegedly been in communication with @TheBritishCop (who maintains that he is NEITHER this officer, nor even a member of Avon and Somerset Constabulary, but has for some reason omitted this vital piece of information from the disciplinary files.

If this is true then this is clearly an unacceptable situation.  Professional Standards Departments should behave in exactly that manner – PROFESSIONALLY.  They do nothing for the confidence of public or their officers if they, themselves, deviate from the straight and narrow.

Then today I find myself contacted by an officer from the Western bit of the UK who tells me that he’s under investigation AGAIN for his use of Twitter.  I have no idea what the specific issue is there but it’s making a bit of a nonsense of Police use of Twitter & other Social Media.  To be effective (in my opinion) a Twitter/SM account needs to be balanced between humourous and professional. If it’s too dry and stuffy people will disengage, but neither should it be discreditable in any way.

The Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police recently made much of his Force being awarded a Gold Award by Investors in People.  How does that fit with (allegedly) sacking the wrong person.  Sacking has huge repercussions for the person being sacked, even when it’s the right person.  Imagine the effect if/when it’s the wrong person.

I implore Avon and Somerset to either justify their actions and convince us that they’ve actually disciplined and sacked the right person, or re-examine this case as a matter of urgency.  One way or the other it can’t be left hanging there, and public confidence needs to be restored before too much damage is caused. It’s out there, there’s nothing you can do about that.

Finally, I do think there’s a moral obligation on @TheBritishCop to put this right, but I also understand how he/she probably fears the same fate awaits him/her if reported to his/her Force, assuming he/she really is a cop.

A Gold Star For Avon & Somerset

I mentioned in a recent blog that the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset, Mr Nick Gargan QPM, had been publicising on Twitter the fact that his force had been awarded a Gold Achievement Award by Investors in People.

This got me thinking, because I normally associate awards such as that with business, and the Police Service should not be regarded as a business, but that’s another blog for another day.

Why Avon and Somerset?  Why aren’t all the Police Forces queueing up to get one of these awards? Are they really worth the paper they’re printed on?

So I took out my trusty quill and scratched out an #FOI request to Avon and Somerset, asking the following questions;

I saw on Twitter recently that your Chief Constable announced that Avon and Somerset Constabulary had been awarded the Investors in People Gold Award.

Under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act I would ask you to supply me with the following information specifically in relation to the Gold accreditation (I am aware that you achieved Silver Status in 2012, but I am not requesting any info re that achievement)

a) How many Police Officers were interviewed as part of this accreditation and how many of each rank interviewed please? I am not requesting names or any other identifying features.

b) How many Support Staff were interviewed as part of the accreditation process and how many of each grade interviewed please? Again I am not requesting names or any other identifying feature.

c) What was the TOTAL cost to Avon and Somerset Constabulary paid to Investors in People for this accreditation?

Well, surprise, surprise, they eventually answered every question.

How many Police Officers were interviewed? – The Gold Investors in People assessment was a follow up to the previous assessment where we achieved Silver status.  The assessors reviewed specific area’s as part of the Gold assessment, and therefore a smaller number of staff and officers were interviewed.

Our records show that 37 police officers were interviews as part of the process. The number of each rank  interviewed is as follows:

Rank                                        Total
Constable                                    25
Sergeant                                       2
Inspector                                       4
Chief Inspector                              2
Chief Superintendent                    3
CC                                                 1
TOTAL                                          37

How many Support Staff? – Our records show that 59 members of staff were interviews as part of the process. The number of each role interviewed is as follows:

Grade                                           Total
Scale 3                                           5
Scale 4                                           13
Scale 5                                           4
Scale 6                                           7
Senior Officer (SO)                        12
Principle Officer (PO) and             18
TOTAL                                           59

What was the TOTAL cost to Avon and Somerset Constabulary? – As of the date this request was made, Avon and Somerset Constabulary have not as yet made any payments to Investors in People for this accreditation, however the cost is approximately £10,000.

So, let’s crunch some numbers;

Total number of Police Officers in Avon & Somerset is 2,873. 37 out of 2,873 is 1.3%.

The total number of Constables in Avon & Somerset is 2,196. 25 out of 2,196 is 1.1%

The total number of Sergeants in Avon & Somerset is 438. 2 out of 438 is 0.5%

The total number of Chief Superintendents in Avon & Somerset is 12. 3 out of 12 is 25%, a much higher proportion when it comes to Police senior management. Why would that be? Surely Constables and Sergeants are People to be Invested in too?

Now for the Civilian Support Staff;

Avon and Somerset has 1,779 Police Staff of all grades, unfortunately the Home Office do not provide a breakdown of grades and numbers.

59 out of 1,779 is 3.3%

Even without a breakdown of grades, we can see that Investors in People have interviewed more Police Staff out of a smaller total number resulting in, proportionately, more than double the number of Police Staff than Police Officers have been interviewed.  Of these the largest grade interviewed was Principal Officer or above.  Avon & Somerset Constabulary kindly informed me that Principal Officer or above grades approximately equate to Superintendent or above.  So once again the largest segment interviewed was Senior Management.  Should I be surprised?

As far as the troops on the Ground Floor are concerned can they have any confidence that this Investors in People Gold Award has any real benefits for them? Have they just been included in the process for appearance’s sake?

£10,000 (approximately). Total number of Police Officers and Police Staff is £4,652, so this represents an expenditure of just over £2 per head of all staff, but has it really achieved anything? Do the officers and staff of Avon and Somerset Constabulary feel more valued? Have they benefited in any way? What the hell is the purpose of this scheme in policing?

Interesting though that it was awarded mainly following the input from Senior Management not Ground Floor troops. Or maybe I’m just being cynical.

Have a good weekend.