SPOILER ALERT: do not read this until after you have watched the TV programme.
I watched the much heralded Babylon on Channel 4 last night. It was a gripping, somewhat realistic and dark comedy about the march of social media in the Met Police. I say comedy (which is how it was billed) but there were few 'laugh out loud' moments (if any). Indeed it was laced with deep but almost off hand tragedy. Its pacey and disaggregated story line was a mix of 'In the thick of it', 'Love Actually' and 'Black Mirror'.
As a pilot, it satisfied. (As a one off, it didn't.) Some important trails were laid down during this opening episode but few were anywhere close to being resolved. I would also like to think that the Met is a little more on top of social media that the programme portrayed. I am not close enough to real live gold command to know whether the lamentable use of technology & leadership in communicating with the armed response unit on the ground reflected reality or not. I sincerely hope not.
However, it made one very strong point: the prevalence of smart phones is a game changer for policing. I know we know this already, but this programme made it very real. And I don't mean the rather crass scene where the PC is about to thump the lead protester but desists due to being on camera. No. I mean the scene where the woman photographs the number plate of the sniper and sends that information in to police control.
This is modern day policing by consent, with an active and supportive citizenry: empowered, enabled and inclined to take action to support the maintenance of the Queen's Peace. In other words, we the public are here to help, and we have a good deal of technology at our disposal. The opportunity for the police service is to keep on growing trust, confidence and accessibility so that community safety can be co-created with a legion of 'barefoot smart phone specials'.
How well are the police doing in making the most of this opportunity?
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