Sunday, 27 February 2011

Cyber Police

This story appeared in a number of the national newspapers and caught my eye. A school liaison officer in Reading has engaged a 'volunteer teenager' to scour Facebook for bullying and inappropriate remarks and this could end up with the 'offenders' being sent a warning or possibly arrested. My best guess would be this officer wants to make a name for himself for some reason. I think we have better things to do.

I recall about 8 years ago one of my officers received a complaint as he declined to deal with some silly remarks on a website, I forget the name of the site but something just prior to Facebook. I went to see the complainant, who wanted the police to go and speak to a boy who was making stupid remarks about his son. They were both about 13 and at the same school. Real juvenile stuff. I suggested that he go and speak to the boys parents. He didn't want to do this as he was unsure as to what response he would get. I suggested he tried and if he got a poor response we would reconsider. No, he wanted the police to do it. I declined and ended up with a complaint too.

You will see from the article that Reading police alone receive about 240 complaints a year of online harassment or abuse on Facebook. Nationally, obviously, it is thousands of crimes. All of these have to be recorded and investigated or we will be castigated by the National Audit Office (This QUANGO is soon to be scrapped.) Add to this all the thousands of 'crimes' we have to record because of threatening and abusive e-mails and texts (that the underclass, largely, cannot avoid sending to each other) and you will understand that we are spending thousands of hours dealing with petty juvenile abuse that is inappropriate for the police and courts.

I do understand that bullying and harassment can have very tragic consequences and persistent and serious cases will still have to be dealt with by the police. I think the Government as part of the 'Big Society' needs to review whole areas of work that the police have had to take on because of shortcomings elsewhere and unrealistic expectations. There should be a clear expectation that individuals, the websites, parents and schools deal with this sort of low level antisocial behaviour and the police focus on real offenders.


  1. I'd be interested to know what you thought of the twitter joke trial.

    Personally, at the time, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I still can't.

  2. Katabasis, this is another example of the police becoming involved in issues that should never be pointed their way. I also recall a number of cases of idiots who set off the alarms at airports joking that they have a bomb in their pocket. Instead of being taken aside by security and told not to be a pratt they end up in the cells and charged. The police need to grow up too and start telling more people to deal with things themselves.
    Perhaps of more concern is the case of the Birmingham Councillor, which is also covered in your link. He stupidly suggested that if someone stoned to death a muslim reporter he wouldn't report it. For todays PC police this was honey to a bee. There were possibly racial overtones here so he was thrown in the cells.
    Shouldn't someone have just taken him aside and told him this was a silly remark and innapropriate for a councillor? We are getting to the stage where freedom of speech is being eroded by the PC brigade.

  3. And who has signed off the RIPA and authority for this teenager to start trawling the web? Anyway you look at it, he/she has become a confidential informant and there are rules (and law) surrounding that.

  4. So, if I'm understanding this...if somebody leaves a nasty commment on my blog and they live in the UK, I can call you coppers and have them arrested?
    We get the same kind of silly calls for service here. Parents want to police to do their jobs.

  5. True, but at the same time look how many teenagers have been in the papers this year already having killed themselves over what to an outsider might seem petty insults. I agree that frequently cyber-bullying does not need to be addressed by the police, but there is a line over some kind of action from some authority is necessary to prevent such tragic consequences. Often in such cases though, the child does not tell anyone about their problem, so I'm not saying it's the police' fault!