We need to stop reporting virtue online and get on with the job

The chief constable of England’s third-largest police force says officers must stop ‘virtue reporting’ on social media and carry on with the work they are paid to do.

Stephen Watson replaced Ian Hopkins as Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) in May 2021 after the crisis-hit force was placed under special measures in December 2020.

Mr Watson had blamed a “failure of senior management” for the force’s problems and promised “increased brawn” in his approach to crime, leading to the GMP being barred from special measures last month.

The police chief, who is seen as an “old school” police chief after banning his officers from having visible tattoos while on duty, told the Times: “The use of social media, in these hotly contested times, requires a particular skill.

“And it’s an ability that we don’t have. So for the most part, regardless of our intentions, we tend to misuse social media,” she added.

“And actually, reaching out to communities is too often perceived as a signal of virtue. And, candidly, in some cases it is a sign of virtue”.

The chief constable, who began his career with Lancashire Constabulary in 1988, said he looked at the officers’ social media and thought they should ‘get on with being the police because that’s what you’re paid to do. “.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman backed Watson’s methods (James Manning/PA)

He added, “The public genuinely doesn’t care what I have for breakfast or what my views are on contemporary social issues.”

Mr Watson was praised by the Home Secretary earlier this month, with Suella Braverman saying he ‘rejected the revival of the police’.

He added at the joint annual conference of the National Council of Police Chiefs (NPCC) and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APPC) on Nov. 9, “The way to ensure public trust in the police is to focus on getting the right basis.

“What I call ‘common sense policing.’ The kind of policing that the law-abiding majority deserve and expect.

“No politically correct distractions, just good old-fashioned policing, with a relentless focus on making our streets, homes and transportation networks safer.”

Ms Braverman added, “Our police officers’ time is precious and the public wants police to address crime, not discuss gender on Twitter.”

Mr Watson appeared to agree, telling The Times: “I think it would serve us better to offer the public the things they have every right to expect from us.

“And do it consistently, consistently, and to the exclusion of pretty much everything else.”

Greater Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins during a vigil

Ian Hopkins was Watson’s predecessor at GMP (Martin Rickett/PA)

When he took over GMP, Mr Watson told Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and other political leaders in the region he would switch forces with a plan to make more arrests, go after serious criminals with “real ferocity” and investigate every theft with burglary.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Police and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) announced on 28 October that the GMP had been removed from the Special Measures.

HMICFRS said the force is now responding to calls quicker, giving officers more time to focus on bringing perpetrators to justice and more accurately recording crime.

GMP entered special measures for the first time after an HMICFRS report revealed the force had failed to register 80,000 crimes.

The force will be inspected again during 2023.

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