Courage in communications

One year on since the launch of a hard-hitting CSE film, Leicestershire’s retiring Deputy Chief Constable Roger Bannister calls for more courageous communications by forces.

Jan 4, 2018

One year on since the launch of a hard-hitting CSE film, Leicestershire’s retiring Deputy Chief Constable Roger Bannister calls for more courageous communications by forces. On January 3 last year, Leicestershire Police posted online a five-minute film called Kayleigh’s Love Story, which showed how, over a 15-day period, a teenage girl was groomed, raped and murdered. One year on, it has achieved some remarkable, and unexpected, results. The film has been viewed by an estimated worldwide audience of 36.6 million people after going viral within hours. It has won eight national industry awards and is to be preserved for posterity by the British Film Industry’s National Archive. Critically, it has led directly to 50 disclosures from children in the Leicestershire force area, let alone elsewhere around the world. But despite its widespread acclaim, is has also been condemned, albeit by a small number of commentators, who regard it as damaging, traumatising and ultimately counter-productive – despite our careful liaison with some 250 experts during the production process. At the tail end of 2017, Leicestershire Police also posted online two films about a fictional rape as part of our ‘All is not lost’ campaign, aimed at increasing successful prosecutions of this type of crime. The first film began with blurry scenes of a violent rape; the second concludes with the jury reaching its verdict. Like Kayleigh’s Love Story, these two rape films have also attracted criticism, with a minority concerned that we appear to be blaming the victim. I retire from policing after 30 years’ service in March, at around the time when Leicestershire Police will be unveiling its latest campaigning film, Breck’s Last Game, being produced in a collaborative arrangement with the Surrey, Essex and Northamptonshire forces. It will return to the subject of child sexual exploitation (CSE), and will focus on the threat posed to that hugely under-reported group of victims – teenage boys. It will tell the tragic story of Surrey’s Breck Bednar, who was groomed over a lengthy period by his online gaming ‘friend’, Essex resident Lewis Daynes, before he was murdered in 2014. I have little doubt, as you read this, that there will have been some who have once again criticised us for making a film that, in their view, will unnecessarily upset young audiences and present an extreme picture of what constitutes child sexual exploitation. Over 30 years’ service, I have handed out countless awards to police officers in recognition of acts of great courage, bravery and professionalism. I have been fortunate to have received one or two myself. But while the public wants officers to be brave, to run towards danger when others run away, these qualities are not the sole preserve of our front line. That moral and physical courage – that often makes the service different – should be the DNA of all those employed by the service, and should be highly visible in our public statements, our campaigns or at the very least in our response to controversial issues. In short, there is much to be achieved by having courage in communications. I know that one person’s courage is another’s stupidity, but I believe that in a career dedicated to protecting some of the most vulnerable people in society, we should not just confront the physical danger but demonstrate a determination to pick up a pen or take to new media, and be brave in what we say, and how we say it. During my career I can remember many occasions when the service has taken the easier route, times when we have remained silent in the face of unfair and unjustified condemnation, from the media and commentators alike. We have carried the can when others have kicked it down the street; we have looked knowingly, smiled sardonically, and moved ably on to the next crisis. Should we run away from difficult issues, decline to get involved in making comment about controversial subjects, accept unfounded criticism without challenge or comment? How does such a stance serve our communities? Fi

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