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  • Iain Donnelly

Line of Duty - When life starts to imitate art

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

The last few weeks have been really horrible for UK policing. We saw the arrest and charging of a serving Metropolitan police officer for the murder of Sarah Everard. Then we saw the debacle of the Clapham Common ‘vigil,’ hijacked by activists calling the male officers ‘rapists and murderers’ and telling some of the female officers that they ‘wished they’d been murdered’.

There was then the predictable slating of the police response by politicians and the media, followed by many days of civil disobedience and disorder outside police stations in Bristol and many other cities in response to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. This was rather like smashing up the fishmonger’s shop, because the government want to raise the price of haddock.

I wondered if it could get any worse, but it did. Why? Because the much-anticipated 6th series of Line of Duty was just about to start on BBC1!!

The degree to which the British public loves Line of Duty is only surpassed by the degree to which British police officers hate it.

In most British police officers' eyes, Line of Duty is probably the worst TV drama about policing ever.

1. It’s inaccurate in so many ways - too many ways to mention

2. The plots are nonsensical and fantastical

3. The characters patronise each other as if they’d all joined the police earlier that day.

4. Death by three-letter acronym – most cops don’t even understand or use many of them

However, the thing that makes police officers really annoyed is that it portrays a dystopian version of British policing riddled with corruption. Inevitably this will lead many viewers to believe that it must bear at least some relation to reality.

Have there been instances of genuine corruption in the British police? Yes, there have. However, those instances have thankfully been extremely rare, and as the saying goes ‘Nobody hates a bent copper more than a good copper’ and most coppers are good people.

Therefore, most of us just roll our eyes and watch something else on Netflix.

However, many of us had to rub our eyes in genuine disbelief, when we saw that the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is promoting Line of Duty images and hashtags on social media, inviting the public to find out more about what they do and seeking applicants for IOPC vacancies.

I’m not sure where to even start with this.

Let’s just repeat that. The Independent (the clue should have been in the word) Office for Police Conduct is promoting itself using images from a fictional and highly distorted drama that supports the belief that the police in the UK is riddled with corruption.

Seriously?? Who thought that was a good idea? Was this an idea that someone had approved after smoking drugs?

It’s hardly surprising that the morale of UK police officers is so low. Worth remembering that over 8000 experienced officers have resigned in the last three years, because they’ve simply had enough, and mental health and suicide rates in policing have never been higher.

Then I saw a beacon of hope….

And then a single post appeared on Linkedin, from Andrea Large, showing a picture of her brother, a dog-handler with Avon and Somerset, expressing her pride in what he was doing. It was genuinely heart-warming, and I wanted to jump up and shout ‘Yes!!’ when I saw the amazing response that it had received. This evening when I checked, it had received 53,371 positive responses and over 4,000 comments.

This says a number of things to me

Firstly, the mainstream media and politicians are completely out of touch with the sentiments of most ‘normal’ people who have watched recent scenes with the same disbelief and anger as police officers. Secondly, it gives me confidence that the police are actually supported by most decent people. Thirdly, it’s time for the silent majority to stop being so silent. The police need their support now more than ever.

Finally, the IOPC need to sack their social media manager.

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