No Place to Hide?
As I write this blog, Police Scotland (and partners) are mid-way through a major live play exercise to test plans and practise the necessary response to a terrorist incident. Superintendents and Chief Superintendents are performing key roles as critical incident decision makers and operational leaders. Allied to this exercise is the ongoing national public information campaign with the key message of ‘Run, Hide, Tell’.
Meanwhile, in Las Vegas in the United States, we have just witnessed another mass shooting with 58 lives lost and over 500 people injured at the hands of a lone gun man armed with a multitude of weapons and a stockpile of ammunition. The media reporting shows people running and hiding and trying to tell the emergency services. The media reporting also shows Police Officers and other brave individuals running into the danger zone, standing up in the face of live-fire and directing innocent people to safety. For Police Officers, there is no place to hide.
Also over the past few days we have observed terrible scenes of tension, unrest and violence as the people of Catalonia pursue their ambition for independence. Most significantly the people did not revolt or instigate a coup d’etat, they were following a recognised model of democracy and were trying to hold a vote. As a consequence of the Spanish Government declaring the independence vote to be unlawful, the national Police force was mobilised to intervene. Unfortunately, the tactics employed and the behaviour of the Police appears to have been nothing short of brutal. Again, in situations like this, through the power of digital media and citizen reporting, for the Police Officers there is no place to hide.
In this short blog, it is not feasible or perhaps appropriate to make properly informed comment about the firearms laws in America or the socio-political issues in Spain/Catalonia. Bearing in mind that in Scotland we too have had similar tragic circumstances at Dunblane and during the miners’ strikes we need to avoid being judgmental and be thankful (and hopeful) that we have learned from our past experiences.
My main reflection on all this is articulated in the title of the blog. For Police Officers, there is no place to hide. When the bullets are flying (physically and metaphorically) there is no place to hide. We step into situations, we make decisions, we take action, we try to protect people and save life. Or when there is political and civil unrest there is no place to hide. Inevitably we are there in the middle, we are there to keep the peace and to uphold human rights and we must do so with visible integrity and unequivocal impartiality. Our actions will always be scrutinised and rightly there is no place to hide.
Policing in the 21st century is challenging, complex and intensely scrutinised, not least by ‘word of mouse’ on the ‘interweb’. As individuals, and as a service, when we deliver and behave according to our values of integrity, fairness and respect then we have nothing to hide. Thankfully we have men and women who continue to step up to the leadership challenge particularly at superintendent level and do not hide. Crucially we have a Police service composed of men and women who proactively put themselves in harms’ way to help others and do not hide.
For all Police Officers there is absolutely no place to hide…..but that is a good thing in my humble opinion.
Association of Scottish Police Superintendents