This has been a turbulent week and not because of the potential storms ahead, it was caused by ‘plebgate’. If the media columnists, journalists and politicians are to be believed then the impact on the public of this situation has been significant and devastating. There has been extensive commentary about the events and aftermath and broadening it out to the whole of the police service. It is obviously a serious situation and while I am not going to comment on what took place I feel it important to place it in some context.
The Sunday Times last weekend devoted a whole page to discussion about why the confidence levels in the police had dropped from 71% to 66%. Interesting but hardly something of huge statistical significance and when taken against trust in other professions police still rate among the highest. Other surveys during the week found the same thing that people still had a high level of trust and confidence in the police.
Why? Well it has to be due to the work of local officers who are the ones that turn up when you dial 999 and who try to help when people are in need. It is those officers that people will have contact with and who will help decide their views of the police service based on how they are supported. The rest of the discussion is something being played out a million miles away.
But I am not complacent. This is not something that can be ignored as the actions of a few are having such a huge impact on the whole service. What role can communication teams play in helping things to move forwards? These are the times when all those working in police communication roles really have to earn their money. As well as ensuring people know all about the actions of officers to keep people safe they need to use internal communication to lift the spirits of the organisation. It is the communicators role to help galvanise the police force into action, to continue to increase openness and to encourage and support officers to be at the centre of communicating.
We cannot let this current situation detract us from what we are doing. We need to continue to share as much information as possible, to explain what police officers are doing and why, and to maximise the technology to support communication. We need to have the courage to continue to put control of local communication back into the hands of frontline staff. For anyone working in any industry, not just policing or the public sector, this is useful advice and this is a situation worthy of future analysis.