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When honesty can make policing look stupid
07 Aug 2015

From the Editor
From the Editor
There has been a significant change in the way police forces, and other agencies, expose their decision-making and tactics to public scrutiny in the name of transparency. Though this openness has not always been truly understood by the media. This has led to conflicts, not least in the wake of the Leveson inquiry, which limited off-the-record briefings to journalists.

So, this week the hacks took their revenge on the police. Under pressure to create sensational headlines to grab the flitting attention of their readers, they took two aspects of policing burglary, mixed them up and failed to provide the most important elements of context.

The result has been a debate that has twisted out of all recognition from the original concepts and has been fuelled by responses from either people who were informed by those misguided headlines or whose comments have also been taken out of context.

I think the Leicestershire pilot was a great idea and it is a pity so many people have rushed to condemn it because of the sensationalist Daily Mail-type coverage that resulted. The public are not so stupid as to mistake a research pilot, an examination of attendance by forensic investigators to reports of attempted burglary, for a policy to not investigate burglaries at odd numbered houses at all. It is obvious that no policy would ever be implemented to only investigate burglaries based on ability to divide your house number by two.

It was the Telegraph that said: “Leicestershire Police faced outright ridicule earlier this week when it emerged officers will only probe break-ins at properties with even door numbers, while failing to turn out for identical crimes at homes with odd numbers.”

And even the BBC headlined with: Leicestershire police 'ignore' attempted burglaries at odd-numbered houses, but then failed to say who said police were ignoring reports.

Pandering to this tabloid-style coverage of the pilot by giving it false credibility only makes commentators look daft, it also makes the politicians who do so look unprofessional.

The separate debate that Sara Thornton raised, considering how the police prioritise a crime like burglary, versus child sexual exploitation and terrorism, real resourcing choices for chief officers, was easy to twist into further evidence that police will not take crime seriously.

The candour she provides is less understandable when it appears in simplistic sensationalist coverage. The debate is not helped if proposals are not ready for public consumption. I understand that she wants the public to inform policies but if, when questioned, police leaders can not articulate a choice the public can not be expected to have much confidence in the policies which ensue.

My mother said honesty is always the best policy, only providing half truths, in the way it is reported and explained, makes it look like we are being dishonest or very stupid.

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