Belfast Telegraph

Men's group hits out at police 'eye candy' recruitment drive - is it just a laugh or sexism?

Men's rights group labels treatment of male officer by police as 'unprofessional'

By Suzanne Breen

A men's rights group has said the PSNI may be guilty of encouraging sexual harassment for describing a male officer as "eye candy" and suggesting that women should join the force so they can "run into him".

Men's Aid Northern Ireland is seeking a meeting with police to discuss what it describes as the "exploitation" of Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton.

The group asked whether the force's controversial recruitment drive on social media was asking people to join the PSNI or POF - the Plenty of Fish dating site.

Det Supt Singleton became an online sensation last week after his picture appeared on the PSNI's Facebook page, along with safety advice, ahead of the Tennent's Vital music festival.

The detective, who was leading the police operation at Boucher playing fields, was branded #officerhotstuff by smitten female followers. His appearance won him male attention too, with admirers likening him to US actor Ben Affleck.

Spotting a window of opportunity in the online attention, Bangor PSNI then posted: "Instead of turning to a life of crime to meet Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton which I have seen several ladies threaten, why not join the PSNI and run into him in a chance meeting in the canteen or during an arrest at custody?"

Gary McIntyre of Men's Aid Northern Ireland said: "I would question if this is asking people to join the PSNI or POF - Plenty of Fish dating site.

"I would also question if this is a green light to sexual harassment, both on the internet and in the workplace.

"I find it hard to believe that a female officer would have been exploited in this way.

"Further, I would point out that the PSNI Bangor post used #OrganisationalEyeCandy and #BlueSteel.

"The kindest way to describe this is unprofessional."

Men's Aid has passed on an open letter from Mr McIntyre to the PSNI via Assembly Member Ross Hussey - which the MLA has asked to be put on the agenda for the Policing Board's next meeting.

Mr McIntyre said the PSNI should really have challenged members of the public over their comments about Det Supt Singleton's looks on the initial Facebook post. "One would have expected these comments to be called out as inappropriate," he stated.

"An officer's appearance in no way contributes to their ability to do a professional job.

"One would have expected the posters to be condemned as 'sleazy' or 'creepy' or borderline stalking or sexual harassment.

"However, it is all being brushed off as a 'bit of banter' due to the fact the officer in question is a man, and the comments are, with a few exceptions, from women."

Mr McIntyre said it was impossible to tell if Det Supt Singleton had enjoyed the "fun", or if it had caused "problems with his private life".

The campaigner claimed the PSNI's behaviour on social media could have a dangerous impact on young working-class males.

"For boy's growing up with a single mother the local 'Bobby' could well be the only positive role model they have," he said.

"Posts like this - placing an emphasis on personal appearance - could be an impediment to these boys realising their full potential, as they feel to be a worthy officer they need to meet certain standards outside their control. There is already a problem with young men using anabolic steroids to attain an unnatural physique to make up for perceived deficiencies in (what) they were born with."

Mr McIntyre stressed that he was not writing "a letter of complaint", but just hoped for the opportunity to talk to the PSNI.

He hoped that the force would meet Men's Aid Northern Ireland to discuss "the issues faced by men and how easily double standards of sexism may occur due to unintentional bias and lack of understanding".

Det Supt Singleton took last week's online attention in good humour, tweeting that it was all in a day's work.

Belfast Telegraph


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