Get Better Work Stories?
Eighteen police officers have been disciplined for using the Facebook social networking website to brag about dangerous crashes. Photos of police vehicles that had been driven into lampposts and other cars were posted on a group on the site called "Look I’ve Had a Polcol". Polcol is slang for police collision. One picture showed a uniformed officer giving a thumbs-up in front of a wrecked patrol car pinned underneath a fallen tree.
.............The group, which had more than 200 members before being closed down, also contained stories about collisions with pedestrians. "Ran over a drunk. I believe he has a permanent limp and a hefty payout. I was given a three-month holiday from job driving. Ooh, bummer," one member wrote.
In this latest escapade where police meet Jackass in the United Kingdom, rebel cops and dangerous drivers unite over their mutual fascination with the carnage and aftermath of serious crashes. Preserving the moment with a photo, these bastions of society then go and trade their memoirs on Facebook with those who are breaking the law; some go so far as to boast of the injuries they inflict on others.
Looking at this story and its accompanying pictures, I am struck by how this article reads like an advertisement for the New Zealand recruitment campaign for police, 'Get Better Work Stories'. Visualise wiping the over-zealous 'thumbs up' and add in an aftershot of this guy standing around the barbeque discussing it with his mates over beer or some zappy grey and red graphics and you get the picture.
Produced by M&C Saatchi, the campaign conveys a message that police are not driven by the desire to create safe communities but primarily the desire to boast about witnessing crime to your mates. The television advertisements are divided into two kinds: one that positions having a boring job as something that makes you weak as a male and the other positioning respect as something you gain from your involvement in combating crime as an extreme sport. The office worker who sends his baby to sleep speaking of his boring life is clearly the emasculated opposite of the cop who runs criminals down 'easy: good thing we get paid to keep fit'. While I empathise that we certainly need to be able to make pursuing a career within the police an attractive option for our youth – let's face it the police perform a lot of positive work within our communities – do we really need to send the message to our future preservers of the state that the definition of an exciting day is engaging in sadistic voyeurism?
I'm not sure that these advertisements and the way they sensationalise crime are the best way to instill public confidence in the police, or that they set a positive role model for recruits. On the website, many of the personal testimonies from police officers currently in the force read as noir-styled tales of the the underworld, detailing the pleasure in punishing. In the words of one 'fall guy' who acted as an undercover drug buyer for police upon seeing his catch outside the High Court: 'I cracked up laughing, at which point his drug-infused brain finally put two and two together. He changed his plea. Catching baddies isn't always that easy, but it can be fun'.