Here’s our round-up of frontline blogs we’ve particularly liked from the week of 11th March 2013. Let us know which posts we’ve missed and which other bloggers we should be following for next week’s round-up.
This week the frontline blogosphere has been reflecting on the decision by police blogger Inspector Gadget, after almost 7 years and nearly 13 million hits, to call it a day. Some bloggers acknowledged what an inspiration Inspector Gadget had been to other frontline bloggers especially those in the police service. Mr Sherlock argued that Inspector Gadget was ‘the inspiration for many, if not ALL, Police bloggers…” and offered up these reflections on his decision to call it a day:
“Your words, thoughts, insights and opinions will be missed by many and the huge void you leave behind in the Social Media world will be impossible to fill, although I am certain many will try. I tip my hat to you good Sir (or Ma’am) and whatever it is you are moving on too I wish you luck Inspector Gadget.”
Jim Brown writing on On Probation Blog, argued that that whilst he did not always agree with Inspector Gadget’s views, he enjoyed “his colourful description of life on The Swamp, the characters and situations he encountered on a daily basis and the obvious care and concern with which he went about the business of ‘coppering’…” He argued that:
“While it lasted and for all intents and purposes, Gadget’s blog was the unofficial voice of British policing. The place you went to first when something was ‘kicking-off’ or tragedy had struck. The vast numbers of comments that flooded in after each new post gave us all an insight into what might sometimes be unkindly termed the ‘canteen-culture’ of British bobbies, but I’d rather that than sanitised press releases or platitudinous management pronouncements.”
Jim offered up these closing thoughts: “Inspector Gadget, you rattled cages and made me laugh. You helped remind me about the power of words and the telling of a good story. You confirmed that we are still very lucky to have policing by general consent in this country. I bet the Home Secretary won’t miss you, but I have already.”
The Justice of the Peace speculated on why Inspector Gadget decided to call it a day:
“If he left the Web by his own hand one must have sympathy for him and his but if his departure from his meteoric on line ascent as one of the country`s most read bloggers was hastened by the snares, snarls and threats of those who pay the wages which allowed him to put food on the family dining table one must be fearful for others whose heads do not relish chopping blocks.”
Gadget’s publishers The Monday Book Club reminded us of the risks that he was taking in blogging and talking to the media: “It’s hard to exaggerate the risk he was taking in doing this. In the police, speaking out can cost you your job.”
Inspector Gadget wasn’t always popular with everybody – the former Policing Minister Nick Herbert was certainly no fan, taking to the pages of the Guardian last year to dismiss him as “silly” for his stance on cuts to the police service.
Sandra Laville in the Guardian picked up on the story and speculated on why Inspector Gadget decided to call it a day:
“Those close to the blogger say he has grown frustrated at the cuts to the police service and feels he is unable to enact any change through his writing. It is not known whether he has been directly warned off by senior officers in his force but he quits the medium at a time when those officers who are tweeting under pseudonyms say they are being intimidated off social media by their bosses.”
She also argued that unofficial tweeting and blogging by police officers is under increasing scrutiny from within the police service – with ‘unofficial’ blogs and twitter accounts being closed down.
This accords with The Custody Sgt who reflected on the pressures of blogging and tweeting in a frontline police role in a post in January on The Custody Record. He has stepped back from blogging and tweeting as much because of concerns from management within his police force: “I feel that my tweeting makes a difference and this is confirmed by a lot of the feedback my followers give me but as far as work is concerned it is a big “No, No”.
The Custody Sgt believes that Twitter is an integral part of his role but he still needs to convince the doubters and worriers that his tweets are useful and not a distraction from his other duties.
Changes are a foot elsewhere in the frontline policing blogosphere. Inspector Michael Brown writing on the Mental Health Cop announced that he has made the decision to step back from blogging as much and is refreshing his approach to blogging. Michael noted that his blog has had over 250,000 views in the eighteen months since he started blogging and he had 25,000 visitors last week alone:
“Along the way, I’ve written dozens of pieces that some refer to as “polemic”: my views on how some of this stuff could be done far better. As I approached a hundred posts I started to think I was running out of issues to cover and various things prompted yet more posts as weird and wonderful situations led to officers asking questions and requesting other issues to be explained or made accessible in a different way.”
Inspector Gadget reminds us of the power of honest, personal stories from frontline bloggers, which is a theme that we highlighted in last week’s Frontline Friday round-up. There are obviously legitimate concerns about issues such as confidentiality and safeguarding when it comes to frontline blogging but these concerns shouldn’t override the need for open, transparent debating of policy issues.
Inspector Gadget, whilst we didn’t always agree with his views, offered up a unique view point on policing policy – a perspective that was informed by his experience of working in the police service. This insight from frontline services is critical to good policy and surely deserves to be listened to more than the familiar ideological prescriptions that emanate from certain think tanks.
Best of luck for the future Inspector Gadget – you leave a big hole in the frontline blogosphere.
We’re always interested in hearing from frontline bloggers, so if you’re interested in having your post featured on Guerilla Policy then do get in touch: [email protected]