May 24th, 2006

Headless Chickens?

Posted in The Job - Comment by 200

Hertfordshire Police recently appeared in the news in one of those “Oh no” moments for the executive. It seems staff have been circulating ‘inappropriate’ emails to each other. I seem to recall a similar investigation for the same email in Greater Manchester Police some time ago, also.

The story on the BBC News website, and regional TV news said that police officers and support staff were being investigated for distributing an email which contained gruesome photos. The BBC said: “The e-mail reportedly contains a series of images, one of which shows the head of a black man who dies after jumping on to metal railings during a police chase. It is captioned: ‘Don’t run from the police’.”

I seem to recall some time back that there was a bit of an uproar when the media stated the race of someone they were reporting on when it wasn’t relevant to the story. So, for instance, a news report could say that police were looking for a “black male, 6’2, medium build with short hair” in relation to a particular crime, but it was not appropriate to say something like “Jo Bloggs,  a black male, was convicted of rape this afternoon at Cheltenham Crown Court” as the race of the offender was deemed irrelevant and only served to create more racial tension, or something.

You don’t need to be the brain of Britain to realise that using the job’s internal email system to send funny cartoons, jokes, good luck pass-it-ons and gruesome photographs around your workmates isn’t really the done thing. Most businesses have email & internet policies and I’ve yet to come across one which says you can use the email system to show each other pictures of decapitated men. You’ll not get an argument from me that what appears to have gone on in Hertfordshire (and no doubt in many other organisations, police & otherwise) wasn’t somewhat stupid. But what did get me was that in the reports what has been highlighted is that the hapless idiot who apparently ran from the police and jumped over a barrier not realising there was a 30-foot drop onto metal railings below, was black.

Oh, but silly me, in today’s modern police service, anything involving police officers and black people must mean that racism is involved.

The BBC report ended thus: Det Sgt Alicia Moore, chair of the Hertfordshire Black Police Association, added: “The inquiry team has consulted closely with us since the beginning of this investigation and, to date, we are satisfied with the course of action that is being taken.” Other BPA representatives wre interviewed on the TV reports too.

I’m glad the BPA is satisfied with the course of action taken by the social engineers at Herts Police but WTF exactly has it got to do with the BPA?

The story here is that staff used an internal email system to circulate a gruesome photograph. The fact that the subject was black is of no relevance whatsoever. Still, it’s another stick for the BPA and others to beat the police with and another good opportunity for police managers to highlight their ‘diversity’ credentials.

So instead of a bunch of rather silly individuals being rapped for misuse of an email system, they’re all probably wondering whether they’ll be getting sacked for racism. 

Somehow I don’t think the story would have the same effect had the highlight been “The e-mail reportedly contains a series of images, one of which shows the head of a man who dies after jumping on to metal railings during a police chase.”

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