Why are the police so precious? Not necessarily in a good way.
Updated: Feb 28
Many of us have followed the tragic case of Nicola Bulley through the main stream media and social media. Some more intensely than others. I want to take a broader look at what has happened, not the investigation, but what is happening between the police and the public that has created an increasingly bizarre situation. As a waning supprter of the police and a former CID detective, it worries me.
I don't know whether the case has been investigated appropriately or not, as I am not involved in it. There are issues that seem unusual and the police have been quick to try to dampen down any questions or commentary on these. That is not the point of this blog. It is the failing relationship with the public that concerns me and it might be time for some candid and transparent exchanges. Are we past that? Is it too late? Is it just hurling insults and suspicion at each other, now? Should all dissenters be crushed by the State?
There is no doubt that the police, as an institution, and indeed many individuals within it, are wrestling with the current backdrop of low public support, which, whether they like it or not, is due to the incessant line of officers being charged with serious offences, and also the gusto with which the police embrace the woke culture, seemingly giving priority to this agenda above other more important issues such as visiting burglaries and solving crime. At least that is the perception. Again, like it or lump it.
This is where we are at with regard to police efficiencies:
The former creates a lack of trust in officers (even though we know that the vast amount are decent hard-working cops) and the latter, along with the 'clown' police cars emblazoned in rainbows seems to be a partisan stance alienating the vast majority of the general public.
I know many will be screaming that this is not the case, but I believe it most certainly is. At best it is the perception outside the (fingers in ears) la la bubble. We should remember that the woke fascism got to such a pitch that people in every day jobs have sacrificed careers in corporate businesses over the matter, as well as had police officers knocking on their doors over a twitter squabble. Really? Most people just keep quiet, nowadays. Frightening isn't it, that good old Blighty seems to have such a regime set in positions of power that seeks to secretly destroy dissenters to their own ideologies.
'The distance between the police and public is exposed, naked in all its sordid glory.'
So, the timing of the Nikki Bulley case has meant that the planets have aligned and the distance between the police and public is exposed, naked in all its sordid glory.
I periodically pass comment on social media, often to support the police, particularly those on the front line of policing, when ill-informed people or the mischievous stick the boot in. From what I can gather these poor souls, who risk their lives for us every day, are beleaguered, bewildered and traumatised by a service that has lost its focus and by senior officers who will throw them under a bus at the first whiff of an 'ism.' I feel so sorry for them.
One officer posted on social media today how he felt about the current situation through a photograph:
I understand why he thinks this, (it was ever thus, but more thus now than ever - eh?) The thing is we are not ungrateful. Quite the reverse. We are thankful for this side of the police work that front line officers do. Imagine not having someone to call on when we need them. However, we just want the senior officers to stop with the social experimenting, and arsing around on issues that are lesser to the grim reality of what we really want from our protectors. I really struggle to believe that the vast majority of good coppers want to 'investigate' twitter arguments or someone being 'offended' by something they have read on social media. It's silliness isn't it? Come on, stop it. It's too daft to laugh at. Why do you think officers are leaving in their droves? The snag is, it leaves only the woke acolytes and the recruitment of similar for all sorts of reasons other than they can do the damned job.
'You would have to be mad to be a police officer today.'
It is generally true that the public, despite all the documentaries and tv detective series they watch, have no clue of the sort of nightmare policing was, and is right now. Let's face it, you would have to be mad to be a police officer today, wouldn't you? The fact they are willing to put up with all this is a testimony to their desire to do the right thing for society and individuals in need. It is incredible to me. Particularly in a world where the decent cops are constantly watching their backs from these woke devotees within the force ready to dob them in for saying 'black board' or some such nonsense.
I have to say though, that some of this lack of understanding about what is required, seems to be because of the ideologies being forced on officers upon pain of death by some of those in the higher ranks and the extremists who have infiltrated the ranks. These off-centre ideologies seem to take preference above the core elements of policing which has, and will always be, policing by consent, and the way the police interact with the law-abiding citizens whom they serve. Why?
'The police are not us any more.'
Because people wonder whether they serve us or worship at the altar of trendy ideologies? There is the rub. The police are not us anymore, they seem to be living in an alien world, often policing something that isn't really there. It is such a damned shame.
The way the police as a whole have interacted with the public during the Nicola Bulley missing from home enquiry has been an eye-opener for some of us, and perhaps a microcosm of the issues at hand across the board with engagement between the police and the public. It was more combative than consultative. It resulted in various elements arising that were strange. I chose just three. There are more.
1) The initial press conference.
2) Cocktail-gate dress-gate gate.
3) Those interested in the case.
1) The initial press conference, in my humble view, seemed a very guarded affair, before it had even begun. The SIO, at least to me, wore something quite inappropriate - she wore an expression on her face that implied - "don't challenge me."
This set the tone for the whole shit-show going forwards. The main thrust of the problem was the fact that the police immediately said they were working to the hypothesis that Nicola was in the water.
This triggered many people, not least those not experienced in how investigations work, because little else was disclosed about the parallel work being done away from the river. The emphasis and back peddling on 'keeping an open mind' was never convincing, although I am certain the police would have been doing just that. I doubt Joe Public thought the same, though.
I haven't commented too much on social media about the investigation, but I did comment on the vibe the initial press conference engendered and it was interesting to see that various members of the public agreed with me but almost all those disagreeing, which weren't too many, were cops. Some being the usual sycophantic ones, 'Oh well said, Ma'am' etc. You know; that crew.
So it wasn't the best of starts in bringing the public on board. Then when you start justifying this and blaming the public for that, hiding behind the family's sensibilities and immersing yourself into the social media world it becomes unrecoverable.
2) Cocktail-gate dress-gate gate. Remember the cocktail dress gate scenario? This was fuelled by an article by Andy Jehring in the Daily Mail, and exacerbated by tweets from journalist Amanda Platell criticising the 'stiletto heels' and 'cocktail dress' of the Senior Investigating Officer; the experienced, and seemingly well thought of, Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith.
What was noticeable to me was that numerous Chief Constables, and even a Chief Fire Officer, started tweeting about the 'misogyny' of the article and the angst such an article caused them.
'It seemed like faux giddiness about a newspaper article.'
I am afraid I am pretty cynical about the motivation behind the tweets. Let's face it, Chief Constables tend to steer away from commenting about stuff on twitter. It seemed like faux giddiness about a newspaper article. When did they last do so on a matter such as this? It felt to me that the word had gone out to the Chiefs to get the smokescreen up. Why a smokescreen? Because the day before, the police had taken it upon themselves to tell us all about the missing person's menopausal issues, mental health, alcohol intake and relationship difficulties. This of course caused an outcry, as it was, and remains totally unnecessary. Even the Home Secretary, Prime Minister and Information Commissioner baulked at the release of such details and indeed the reason for doing so. This was done under the guise of protecting the family apparently, but it appears the police did not even have the common courtesy to tell the family before they did it, nor indeed ask for their consent. This was evident from the final paragraph in the press release:
You will note that the reason given by the police for this sensitive and personal disclosure about Nicola is because 'it is important to clarify what we meant when we talked about vulnerabilities to avoid any further speculation or misinterpretation.'
Important to whom? The family? They didn't know they were doing it.
Important to the investigation? How? They can manage a scene any way they like, and ignore daft speculation on bloody twitter.
Or was it important for the police because they are so brittle that they would sacrifice a person's dignity to try to diffuse albeit often misplaced criticism about themselves or the investigation? Again, you decide.
So, going back to the Chief Constable tweet fest about the mind-blowing horror of a silly page in the Daily Mail;
'I see (the Chief Constable tweet fest) as a smokescreen for their own timorous sensibilities about their ill-advised disclosure.'
I see it as a smokescreen for their own timorous sensibilities about their ill-advised disclosure, which surely trump the cocktail dress 'misogyny' and yet did any of these soldiers against misogyny adversely comment on the menopause disclosure? What do you think?
The release of such information seems perfectly fine, one assumes; at least judging by the silence from those officers commenting on the cocktail dress shenanigans.
I would argue that there has been more outrage from senior officers in the police on social media about the cocktail dress silliness, than for the Rotherham child abuse cover up, the delay in emergency service to help kids at the Arianne Grande terrorist attack, etc, etc. It begs the question - why?
Are the police and notably Chief Constables so precious that they cannot take such daftness without tweeting about the horrors it seemed to have imbued? These are the police, right? They deal with murders, and grizzly stuff and bad mofo's don't they? So why are they getting in a tiswas about a damned cocktail dress comment? Get over yourselves. There are more important things to be getting on with.
This brings us back to the ongoing lack of confidence in the police and this latest episode with Nicola will have only lowered it further, I am afraid.
I want the police to have a good relationship with the public. I want them to succeed, so that real criminals can get locked away and the public protected. I don't write this stuff merely to have a pop, far from it. I do it because I care, and I just know it will bring all the kindness flowing toward me from those loveable, woke, rainbow clad, BLM supporting, Stop The Oil, bobbies. Some coppers will read this and agree but be too concerned to say anything for fear of the big bouncing balloon heading towards them. 'I am not a number' doesn't apply though, does it? They are a number. You need to be a certain age to understand the reference.
If Lancashire Police had just held the line a little longer and ignored the nasty men and women on twitter they would have merely been able to show that their hypothesis was (at least we believe currently), correct. A win, win. But no, they have to argue back over a load of nonsense and fret about potential misogyny when a woman is lying dead in some reeds less than a mile from where she went missing. This stuff isn't rocket science is it? It infuriates the public.
3) Those interested in the case. Because of the vagueness from the get-go, although not totally, there was a huge amount of interest on social media about the whys and wherefores of the case. People are interested in this stuff. There's nothing new there. Of course, many were ill-informed, and showed a misunderstanding of how it all works, but in my view the vast majority came from a well-meaning place. Many of these people are onside. They are not the enemy. Or at least they weren't. Maybe they are now?
'The police...do not take criticism well.'
The police and some individual officers within it do not take criticism well. To do so makes you an instant enemy or bitter or a dinosaur. This reaction is partisan and outmoded stance despite dressing it in modern frills. They are not on their own, of course.
Indeed, I commented at the time that most investigations are resolved by members of the public who have an interest or some basic knowledge of the case. Just like these people. This is important to bear in mind, because many police officers were wheeled out or took it upon themselves to ridicule those members of the public commenting or try to silence them. They did it under the guise that the family were distressed by it all. Maybe they were. Maybe they weren't. Why are they reading twitter? Whether you go along with that is a matter for you, but I saw a family, when they were allowed to speak, disagreeing with much the police had said. We know that all family press statements had to be put out via the police (quite normal) and it may be that the family wrote something out and the police read it verbatim without questioning or editing it. Or it may not.
This implies that the communication between the police and the family had a similar tone to that with the public. The 'we know best' approach, which is true, they do know best, but they also know what is best for them as a priority versus anything else. They need to be bigger than that. It feels like they are so precious now that the tail is wagging the dog.
I commented that because police officers and some retired ones on social media were ridiculing the public response they could be cutting off any future information from a member of the public reticent to contact them because of the genuine fear of humiliation. It is hard enough now to report things to the police without ridicule being an added component.
This seemed less important than cops in general trying to cover their own backsides, show their expertise, and being over sensitive to commentary that they could quite easily have ignored. Before social media, in my time as a detective, cases were in the newspapers, and people spoke in the pubs about various matters, but only those in hearing distance were affected. Being so sensitive to criticism is a fault of the police and always has been, not least senior officers. There are many ways to combat this. They adopt a 'don't challenge me' approach, or use other weapons such as wokery, the law, or the like, to frighten people away. It implies a lack of confidence in themselves and that too is picked up subliminally by the public. I wonder which approach they will choose for me giving my two-penneth? Remember criticism, or any feedback makes you the enemy.
Part of the derogatory slagging off of all and sundry having the temerity to have a view, by serving police officers loyal to the new way, was their criticism of retired detectives, such as myself.
I was not interviewed by the media on this occasion, but I have been several times before. Many of the serving cops, perhaps understandably, refer to retired cops as dinosaurs and 'having a book to sell.' The latter is often true, but the worry is that the serving coppers do not have the capacity to think through that the reason cops with 'books to sell' are on tv or radio is because they are listed as commentators by media companies when they are interviewed for their private endeavours, be it memoirs or crime books. Do serving cops think they are randomly selected? Would they prefer an arbitrary selection of people taken off the street? The serving police won't give them an honest answer will they? Or answer all the questions.
These upset serving officers forget that they will be in that position come the glorious day and so settle for disparaging remarks, or insults, rather than listen to what is being said. Again, it doesn't bode well, but isn't such a response indicative of the woke way? Regardless, it lacks class.
Everyone is entitled to a view even though cops seem to resent it.
Keeping to the theme of public perception but moving away from the Bulley case, who would have thought that we would see the police enabling the total and almost ritualistic humiliation of a local woman in West Yorkshire. Her autistic son had apparently smudged the Quran. The consequence was seeing her, head wrapped in a scarf, apologising for her son's actions. It reminded me of airman John Nichol when he was taken prisoner during the Gulf war and paraded on television and told what to say on pain of death.
The stomach churning truth of this is that sat at the table enabling the humiliation of this poor woman was a senior police officer from West Yorkshire. Do we think she would be there unless the police had been part of it? What are we doing? Ridiculing women and the public again. I thought we had moved beyond the Stocks. What next? The ducking stool? Burning witches at the stake? When else would such a scenario take place? What other crime? How is this proportionate or reasonable? Yet the same senior officers have a hissy fit when someone criticises the cut of a dress, calling it misogyny and appalling. It seems as though they have their priorities all wrong.
Is there any wonder the huge majority of the public look on the police with suspicion or just discount them as a waste of time and space?
(Woman with covered head apologises for autistic son damaging the Quran. Police officer party to the event).
'The police vow to serve without fear or favour. It doesn't look like they do, though, does it?'
In closing, the thrust of my concerns over this is the huge gap between the police and the public. This must be remedied urgently. The police vow to serve without fear or favour. It doesn't look like they do though, does it? In trying to be inclusive they are exclusive to the masses outside the woke bubble. It is a consequence of disproportionately pandering to the tiny minorities often the the detriment of the vast majority. They overstep the mark. They wear their colours on cars and badges and in all sorts of ways alienate the huge majority of people who do not give two hoots about what sexual preferences anyone has and even less as to what part of the sexual spectrum the police support. The result? So many decent people do not want to have anything to do with the police. They display their colours too readily and too fiercely. They seem partisan and disconnected. It feels like a sort of fascism, paradoxically, brought about by extremist woke people and the bulk of police are in on it, and woe betide anyone that doesn't fall in line. That's not us is it? Is that who we are, now? I truly hope not. We are, and deserve, better than that.
Will it change? I'm not holding my breath. But where will it end?
I can only hope, but it is diminishing, that someone somewhere not only sees sense, but is in a position to make a change and restore the pride we once had in the police.
*Keith Wright is a retired police detective and author.
@Copyright Keith Wright 28.2.23