Friday, 29 July 2011

Mission Accomplished thus far..

I have now completed writing up the data analysis - over 15,000 words of it! The general findings are that there is no specific intention by the bloggers to transfer tacit knowledge between police officers, but that there is a strong inclination towards public education. The bloggers want the public to be aware of what they do on a day to day basis and what affects them in their job - whether it is obstructive clients, an overflow of paperwork or a lack of manpower. They often want to get their voices heard, so while anonymity is perceived as essential to protect their jobs, on the other hand they do want to reach as many people as possible.This is therefore a form of knowledge transfer in itself.

The other main motives for blogging include releasing frustrations and allowing a place to vent; it also allows bloggers to talk about situations and help them deal with hard-to-process emotions connected with their job - e.g. dealing with death.This particular subject is written about by different bloggers and the support they receive from their readers to such posts is very noticeable. There are in the archives some extremely good creative writing posts on this subject and how the individual tries to deal with it.

Finally, the other main motivation is community-based. A lot of bloggers are inspired by existing bloggers to add their mite and there is a strong police blogging community evident. On the blogs which have greater numbers of readers the comments section engenders swapping of experiences, discussions, agreement and disagreement, jokes and banter. Often police bloggers comment on each others' posts. Even with lesser numbers of readers and comments the community is clear - when an abusive comment is left the readers and blogger almost close ranks as they engage with the commenter to discuss the views held, or to defend or protect the abused.

I would like to thank everyone who consented to speak to me in person or writing in connection with this study. I have protected any personal details given and only quoted things which are already in the blogosphere.

This blog will now go into hiatus for the time being, hopefully to be revived in the near future to continue this fascinating look into a profession in the throes of change and acknowledged by themselves as being under a great deal of pressure.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

One Minute Madness

At last week's DREaM project launch conference, I volunteered to do a 'one minute madness' presentation on our project. As you might guess, you're given precisely one minute (note the stopwatch!) to present a research paper. Slightly more nerve-wracking than my usual presentations and papers, but good fun nonetheless...I'm on about 12 minutes 15 seconds into the video:

Monday, 11 July 2011

Still working away

with apologies for the lack of updates (been working hard noting the blogs plus been away for a week), I've now drawn a line under the data collection side of things.

In total 82 blogs were looked at. An additional 31 were noted to be shut down and 5 are now private. A few stand out initially - one is not anonymous (Inspector Guilfoyle) and the Coppersblog, noted by many to be the original one, is the most popular with other police bloggers, being on 48 blogrolls (albeit it is now one of the private ones).

As stated previously, the motivations are many and varied. Inspector Guilfoyle's in particular seems to be aimed at the education of the public/fellow police as he spends some time explaining statistics and target-setting; both the advantages and disadvantages. In common with many of the bloggers he is against targets, but adopts this alternative method of putting his point forward.

Interestingly, there does not seem to be a great amount of conscious information transfer as motivation. The bloggers do not appear to be passing on their experiences for the purposes of helping each other but rather simply as story-telling or catharsis. When asked if they would ask for information or help via the blog, one reader/commentator advised that they would not, preferring to go to personal contacts. The internet was too public.

On the other hand some help is sometimes requested/given on non specific things like the set-up of the blog itself and general advice on dealing with emotional fallout. It is not possible to tell whether the stories told ever help other police in how they tackle similar circumstances but the posts do not appear to be written from that point of view - being descriptive rather than proscriptive.

Another restriction on the stories told is the requirement not only to disguise the facts to avoid identification but also to prevent breaking the law by talking about a case before it has gone to court. Within these parameters however the process of storytelling seems to help the blogger in a great many cases, providing a platform for opinions and stress-relief.

A different motivation is to be controversial and stimulate debate. Many bloggers will record their own opinion on a topic (often police-related) and ask for others, or simply put it up and wait for the comments. This approach, exemplified by Inspector Gadget or The Thinking Policeman, relies on the blog being well-read.

Thursday, 16 June 2011


I've so far found 63 police blogs. Some are current, some not. Some have been going/went for a number of years and some are very recent or were kept going for very short periods of time. There are a couple that have only one or two posts.

One comment made on this blog is that they are simply a replacement for the old canteen culture which is no more. It would seem that there is something in this - a lot of the blogs are used to blow off steam or vent frustrations with things like bureaucracy, management, the type of people the police come across, politicians' attitudes to the police etc. There is also evidence of the swapping of experiences and telling of tales - again things which would have been possible during breaks and canteen time when this was available.

However some types of posts and blogs cover other areas like public education (e.g. explaining kinds of incidents from the police viewpoint, the reasons why they do things the way they do and the rules and regulations governing this) as well as more strategic matters, inviting debates and essentially putting the general police views on such into the public sphere. This would not be possible without the public nature of the internet and blogs themselves. It is possible for political and public figures to access these blogs and perhaps the motivation behind them is to try to get the perspective of the police "at the coalface" over to the decision-makers?

What comes across clearly is the sense of community in this part of the blogosphere. New blogs seem to become known through others' blogrolls; if a particularly negative or abusive comment is added to a post, other readers and bloggers will take issue and often defend the blogger. Whether police-related or not, the same commenters appear on different police blogs so obviously read this genre in general.

Another point that strikes me as I read the comments is that even if one is particularly negative, the blogger and/or other readers will engage with that person and often have a conversation with them, debating the views expressed in the post and the person's negative ones. This doesn't always result in agreement all round - as often as not the replies become increasingly intemperate before one or other side stops answering; however alternatively both sides can agree to disagree. Is this because the police are used to having to keep their tempers when dealing with the public? In view of the sometimes abusive nature of these negative comments I am surprised the result is not a simple dismissal by the blogger/readers.

As with other readers, the abusive commenters (trolls) also seem to appear on lots of police blogs and it would be interesting to try to find out what their motivations are. They do not appear to have blogs of their own. However as that is not the focus for this particular research it will have to be shelved!

Some of the blogs are extremely well-written. The more cathartic posts are very moving and this is reflected in the number of comments such posts receive, almost always supportive. Is this release sufficient for the blogger or do they need/choose other forms of therapy as well as their blogs? And how is this need viewed within the police force as a whole?

In short then, the motivations can be as numerous and varied as the blogs themselves, although there are broad similarities running through many. There is the venting of frustrations, perhaps the seeking of relief from tensions or stress, the desire to educate the public and /or the politicians, the desire to bring a specific viewpoint to the attention of other police/the public, the wish to simply make thoughts public and join in this community. Some bloggers initially make comments about wishing their blogs to be made into a book - which has happened on a few occasions. Do they seek the kudos of this, the money or the outlet for creative writing abilities?

More soon.

Friday, 10 June 2011


I am still collecting data on the blogs I have found, generally to try to see what the bloggers motivations seem to be, whether this changes during the course of their blog as a whole and what kind of comments they get.

Thank you to anyone who has contributed with their own comments, either privately or through our or their blog. A few people are clearly sceptical of our own identities or our motives for carrying out this research - I attribute this to an understandable caution due to the risks which seem to be inherent in the very act of blogging as a member of a police force. This point itself has come up in several blogs, questioning the need for anonymity - not so much for themselves but why the senior levels of management are so against their officers blogging, thereby making it such a risk to do so and be identified.

I am finding it takes much longer to collect the data than perhaps it should - the blogs are absorbing reading and I often find myself reading posts for the sake of it rather than with my goal in mind!

Monday, 30 May 2011

Bloggers and Readers

We met up today to talk about how the various blogs we're looking at are being used. We had a really interesting and useful meeting, and we're starting to think about a range of different issues affecting bloggers and their blogs including gender, ethnicity, seniority, anonimity, identity, therapy, to name just a few!

At the heart of our research is a consideration of why bloggers blog. However one of the issues we talked about today was why readers read the blogs.

So, if you're a blogger or a reader (or both!), please participate in the research using the comments box below, and let us know what your motivations are for writing your blog, or for reading blogs.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Looking at blogs

Area Trace No Search
200 Weeks
The Thinking Policeman
One Man and his Plod
pc bloggs: a twenty first century police officer
Welcome to Toy Town
Response Plod
Panda Tales
Sergeant Simon
Political Police
World Weary Detective
Police Inspector Blog
The Blue Light Run
Hog Day Afternoon
Tales from the Metropolis
Travails across Safer Neighbour hoods
The Adventures of Policeboy
Shijuro is not georgedixon's Blog
You want to be a hero?

I've been looking for and reading police blogs this week and have found quite a few. Many are not current and about a dozen found so far have either been deleted or are private - establishing the obvious difficulty with these blogs of confidentiality and the importance of keeping their identities secret. These are the current ones I've found so far. (I'm seeing anything with a post this year as current)

If you know of other ones I haven't come across yet please leave a link to them.