The #TrueBlueLineUK

THE STORY SO FAR:

If you’re reading this having read the previous two blogs in this mini-series of three, thank you for your persistence!  Sorry it’s taken three blogs to get this done, but I thought it was important to have the background laid out clearly, especially for those who are reading about this whole #CrisisInPolicing thing for the first time.

If you haven’t already read them the first two blogs are here:

1:  ” The #CrisisInPolicing ” (published 1.8.17)

2:  ” Going Viral ” (published 2.8.17)

By the end of the second blog, “Going Viral”, you hopefully had a bit of a grip on the problem and why I decided that I really should try to “do something”.  This blog sets out what I have decided to do – the #TrueBlueLineUK project – and, most importantly, how YOU can help and support it!

DOING MORE OF WHAT I’M DOING:

As you know from the previous blog, lots of people responding to the Sky News interview which went viral suggested that it would be great if I could do more of the same.  Some were almost begging for me to do so.  Unfortunately that is simply not possible, for a variety of reasons.  Firstly it is important to know how media comment works.  Over some years I have established myself as someone who will comment on policing and related issues.  As a result, lots and lots of reporters, producers and researchers have my contact details and, if they decide that they would like me to take part in an interview they get in touch with me.  This is done on an ad hoc basis and it is somewhat random.  If I am called there is usually little notice and there is no way for me, as an individual commentator, to drive the media agenda or to ask them to give me an interview opportunity.  So the opportunity to do more of the same is simply not there.

Secondly you need to know a little about the finances involved.  I am sure that everyone who sees me on TV imagines that I am being paid fortunes.  Sadly that could not be further from the truth!  Many (most, in fact) media outlets don’t pay anything at all for routine news-related interviews.  Even where they do we are only talking of £100 at most.  That isn’t too bad if you work it out per minute in front of the camera – interview slots are rarely more than three minutes, often less – but when you factor in preparation time, travel time, the fact you need to get there at least 15-30 minutes before the interview and everything else it doesn’t look so good!  Unfortunately, because I left the police service early, I do not receive my (reduced) pension for several more years and so I have to work for a living – to keep a roof over my head today and to build up some additional pension to top up my entitlement.

Even doing what I am doing at the moment makes no financial sense – as I have got more and more involved in trying to proactively pursue issues relating to the #CrisisInPolicing I have found that it is eating into my other work.  It has got to the point where my accountant says that I am now effectively working part-time on my other work and, frankly, that can’t go on.  I therefore really can’t afford to do more of what I’m doing without finding some way of financing it.

I looked at finding some organisation that I could seek to join and from where I could continue to comment – maybe an academic institution, maybe some sort of think-tank or research organisation, maybe even a police-related organisation.  Having considered them all, and having spoken to people with experience of them however, it became very clear that if I were associated with them I would be required to “toe the party line” … and most of them have no particular interest in upsetting the Government or anyone else.  As that is pretty much what confronting the #CrisisInPolicing will involve, and as absolute independence from any organisation is plainly of great value in order to do what I do, that option came to nothing too.

All that was left was to try to find some way of arranging independent funding – maybe a benevolent millionaire or something.

THE EUREKA MOMENT:

I was discussing this dilemma with an officer on-line when he had the “Eureka!” moment.  It originated in several comments made in response to the Sky News interview which went viral, three of which I included at the end of the last blog:

“Every police officer in the country wants to buy you a pint.”.

“Peter, you won’t ever pay for your own beer again if you decided to meet up with members of the Blue Family.  Your efforts are appreciated.”.

“Come down and meet my team, Peter.  Your interview is all they are talking about at the moment.  They all want to buy you a drink!”. 

“Why don’t you try and crowdfund it?”, said the officer I was speaking to, “If all the 120,000 cops in the country donated the price of a pint instead of buying you one that’d be an awful lot of truth that could be told!”.

And so this idea was born: a crowdfunded entity to facilitate me taking on the momentum gathered from the interview which went viral and keeping the pressure on, getting on the front foot and trying to change the relentlessly negative political and media narrative about policing.

WHY THE #TrueBlueLineUK:

Having batted loads of possible names around, I have settled on “True Blue Line UK”.  This has been inspired by the longstanding “Thin Blue Line” campaign which has got phenomenal support within the police service (and outside), with huge numbers of police officers wearing patches (when allowed by their senior officers to do so!) to demonstrate their support for the concept.  I’m not exactly sure why these patches originated but I believe it was UK Cop Humour who started to supply them and before very long they were being worn to demonstrate solidarity with officers killed and injured on duty (such as PC David Phillips of Merseyside Police).  They then somehow morphed into being a more general symbol of how the relentless cuts to policing were stretching the “blue line” of police officers ever thinner.  As such calling a project intended to get the truth about those cuts out to the public the True Blue Line seemed to make absolute sense.  Having researched it, I found that there was already an @TrueBlueLine on Twitter (an Australia-based entity who carry police-related news from around the world, including the UK).  Although they graciously offered use of that Twitter profile name I decided that rather than interfere with what they were doing it was simple enough to add a “UK” to the end.

And so #TrueBlueLineUK was born.

WHAT WILL IT DO?

Well this is all up in the air at the moment – it very much depends on how well the crowdfunding goes!  As a general concept maybe think of it as being the start of something like:

  • A Campaign for Real Policing
  • A think-tank for frontline police officers
  • A pro-police pressure group

Being more specific though, I can set out the sort of things that I would like to do:

  • Provide a reliable source of information about the true state of policing in the UK (and, so far as possible, give voice to the concerns of frontline officers)
  • Highlight the issues which are preventing police officers doing their jobs properly and proactively push those issues on to the media agenda at every opportunity (and example would be the current issue relating to Road Traffic law and the risks of prosecution police drivers take every time they respond to a call or engage in a pursuit)
  • Challenge the exaggerations, misrepresentations and outright lies told about policing in the media by politicians, anti-police critics and campaign groups and some of the media themselves
  • Get ahead of the game when policing-related Reports, Reviews and the like are published by the Home Office, the IPCC, the HMIC, police forces and others, being ready to immediately analyse them and proactively get an accurate, fair and sensible analysis out to the media
  • Rapidly rebut incorrect and inaccurate police-related stories and allegations, adding context, explaining the limitations on what police can and cannot achieve and correcting misunderstandings of law, policy and procedure
  • Research issues of concern to frontline police officers and developing whole new stories for the media, backed up with research findings, press releases and offers of media interviews to any outlet willing to carry the story
  • Hold press conferences and using the whole range of methods available to raise awareness of issues and gain publicity for them
  • Emphasise #GoodPoliceWork and seek to get the national media to carry examples of the excellent work done by officers around the country every day to counter the relentless stream of negative policing stories

This is most definitely not a definitive list: I am sure that there will be lots more things which are suggested and which fit with the overall aim of the project.  Likewise I am sure there will be things on that list which, for one reason or another, prove impossible or inappropriate.

HOW WILL IT DO IT?

All of the above activities take time. A LOT of time if they are to be done properly and they could easily become a full time job!  In the first instance the funds raised will pay for my time (see below for more detail on “Finances”) to do more of all of the above things.  Depending on how much is raised by the crowdfunding campaign, I would like to do the following and more:

  • Create a formal “True Blue Line UK” corporate entity
  • Develop and run a website
  • Develop and run a YouTube channel
  • Develop and run regular blogs on policing issues
  • Develop and run Twitter, Facebook & other social media communication channels
  • Livestream commentary (e.g. on Periscope or Facebook Live) where appropriate
  • Develop a unit to organise and manage Freedom of Information requests from police forces and others on relevant topics
  • Liaise with academic institutions and others to commission research
  • Develop a True Blue Line UK research unit

Obviously some of these things are less expensive and more achievable than others.  Quite what we will end up doing will depend greatly on the funds raised and how things develop as we get going.

I’m sorry to have to be so vague as to how this project will develop. I would love to have spent months planning and costing things in great detail but (a) that would take time and money itself; (b) until we have some idea how much funding is raised it may well turn out to be wasted effort and (c) most importantly, we have some momentum after my Sky News interview went viral and I believe we should move now to build on that.

One thing I can promise though:  every step of the way my thoughts on potential developments will be publicised and opened for discussion with interested parties.  I’m sure there will be disagreements, but I will seek to go with majority views and to build in good ideas that come from others, especially serving police officers.

FINANCES:

I feel uncomfortable about seeking crowdfunding donations, many of which I am sure will come from serving police officers and their families, in order to pay for me to do this.  As I have explained above though, in the absence of a benevolent millionaire willing to fund the project, there is simply no other way of making it happen (please do let me know if you know any!).  Several people I have spoken to about my concerns have told me not to be so stupid (though they used somewhat more colourful language!!!).

In order to show that I will not be seeking to excessively enrich myself as a result of this project, I will give the following undertakings:

  • I will not take in remuneration more than the approximate salary of a Metropolitan Police Service Inspector (I live in Twickenham and I retired as a Detective Chief Inspector).  This means that I will take no more from this project than £50,000 per annum.  For the most part work will be remunerated daily or hourly at the pro rata rates of £200 per day or £25 per hour.
  • All funds raised will be kept entirely separate from my personal and business funds: a separate bank account has been set up to handle the True Blue Line UK project funds at this stage (though it is simply in my name as it was not possible to set up an account in the name of #TrueBlueLineUK without it being a formal, corporate entity).  If a corporate entity is created in due course business accounts will be set up in its own name.
  • Full accounts will be published and audited in due course
  • Details of any contractual arrangements entered into will be published

This is not a project intended to enrich me or anyone else.  It is intended to facilitate me being able to do more of what you saw in the viral Sky News interview and which, it seems, police officers (and others) around the country want to see and hear more of.

Should the project fail, or should excess funds be available for any other reason, they will be donated to police-related charities such as COPS.  Any such arrangements will be publicised at the time.

WHAT WILL IT NOT BE?

Finally I should explain a few things that I do NOT expect the #TrueBlueLineUK to do or become:

  • A pseudo Police Federation: As a non-police entity, it cannot be a representative organisation for police officers.  That is the job of the Police Federation of England and Wales.  In an ideal world the #TrueBlueLineUK would not be needed because everything it does would be being done by the Police Federation.  Sadly, as discussed in the first blog – ” The #CrisisInPolicing ” – the Police Federation of England and Wales are not doing as much of this as they could (and as many officers obviously want)
  • A “whistleblowing” site for police officers:  Whilst the aim is to raise issues which are of concern to frontline police officers, I will never be proactively seeking leaks of any information, let alone confidential information, that is not already in the public domain.  If serving officers wish to get information to me by some means that is a matter for them, but I will never be encouraging them to do so.  The very last thing I want to happen is for a police officer be disciplined or prosecuted for supplying confidential information or having inappropriate contact with the #TrueBlueLineUK.
  • Associated with any particular political Party or to become a political Party in it’s own right:  The #TrueBlueLineUK is all about ensuring that the Government, politicians and media have honest discussions about policing and ensuring that the public (who, after all, are the police in the UK’s “Policing by Consent” model – see Peel’s Principle No.7!) know what is happening to their police service.
  • A campaigning group for better pay and conditions for police officers:  That is the concern of the Police Federation of England and Wales and it is for them and them alone.  I may from time to time support or reference their campaigns, but the lead will always be theirs.
  •  A group campaigning for police officers to strike or withdraw their Labour:  I am fully aware of the fact that police officers are not permitted by law to engage in industrial action.  I am also fully aware of the criminal offence of Inciting or Causing Disaffection amongst police officers (s.91 Police Act 1996).  I will be doing neither.  The whole aim of the #TrueBlueLineUK project is to get police officers the support they need to do their job better, not to encourage them to stop doing their job altogether!

Again this list is not definitive and I am sure there are a number of other things that it will become apparent that it is entirely inappropriate for the #TrueBlueLineUK to become!

SO HOW CAN YOU HELP?

First, and most obviously, you can contribute to the crowdfunding.  There are currently three ways you can do this:

  • Take a cash donation in to any of the 550 branches of the TSB bank in England and pay your donation into the following account:
    • Bank:  TSB
    • Sort Code:  77 – 72 – 34  
    • Account number:  0 2 7 4 3 1 6 0
    • Account name:  Peter KIRKHAM
  • Make a donation direct via Bank Transfer / internet banking.  Make the payment to the same account.  You do not need to put any particular reference for the donation but if you want to be able to check with us that it has been received please feel free to put any reference that you will recognise:
    • Bank:  TSB
    • Sort Code:  77 – 72 – 34  
    • Account number:  0 2 7 4 3 1 6 0
    • Account name:  Peter KIRKHAM 
  • Make a donation (see note below) via the True Blue Line UK GoFundMe page (which has a £15,000 target set – a figure which would allow me to do quite a lot more for the next 12 months at least):
  • I hope that a text donation service, so you can text a short code from your mobile phone and donate a fixed amount, will become available soon too.

NOTE:  Donations made via the GoFundMe service will have about 8-10% retained by the GoFundMe service provider.  If you are able to make a donation in person to a TSB branch or via a Bank Transfer/internet banking then obviously 100% of the donation will be received by #TrueBlueLineUK.

Secondly, you can spread the word.  Talk to your family, friends and colleagues about #TrueBlueLineUK.  Share links to this blog on Twitter, Facebook and other social media.  Engage people in conversation about #TrueBlueLineUK in the pub, at the gym, at the school gates, anywhere!  Spread the word, spread the message!

Finally, if you have any ideas, questions, concerns or wish to contact me about anything to do with #TrueBlueLineUK you can email me at truebluelineuk@yahoo.com.

SO WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

What is happening today is a sort of “soft launch” of the #TrueBlueLineUK project.  Basically I am putting this blog up on my Twitter account and on Facebook and it will go wherever it goes via my current Twitter and Facebook followers.

I hope that the reaction to the request for crowdfunding over the next few days will give me some idea of how this project is likely to take off and that will guide how things progress.

But, one way or another, if we manage to raise a couple of thousand pounds at least, I have a public / media launch of the project planned for later in the autumn.  It will be an example of how we can try to get the #CrisisInPolicing issues into the mainstream media and into the political debate (and, hopefully, it will raise a few smiles amongst out hard-pressed police officers, their families, friends and supporters!

Now it’s over to you…  Do you want to give #TrueBlueLineUK a go?  If so, find a way of making a donation!  (It is entirely down to you how little, or how much, you donate but as I explained, the idea is based on people donating the money they would have used to buy me a pint…so anything from about £3.50 (Stupid Southern prices!!!) would be fine!)

 

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