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Why PSNI can't pull the wool over our eyes with social media stunts

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Silly distraction: Constable Cook has raised a few eyebrows among critics

Silly distraction: Constable Cook has raised a few eyebrows among critics

Silly distraction: Constable Cook has raised a few eyebrows among critics

We need no reminder that policing in Northern Ireland remains a dangerous and difficult job. Those who wear the uniform are brave people performing a vital but very often thankless task. So you can see why police chiefs would feel a little levity sometimes doesn't come amiss. Especially when it's part of the PSNI's online outreach.

But here's the thing - can you go too far in trying to project the new, softer, face of policing?

The officer we must look to for answers here is Constable Cook of Cookstown, a fairly recent recruit and as soft a face of policing as you're ever likely see in a selfie.

Constable Cook, who is of compact build and dressed in scaled-down uniform, has become a regular fixture on the Facebook page of Cookstown PSNI.

He is a knitted toy.

He appears in various photographs, in various locations. Can you guess where Constable Cook is, the caption beneath will ask.

Critics are more concerned about where policing appears to be going ...

There is particular disquiet about the social media squad who now seem to put in more hours online than on the beat.

And with resources currently so obviously strained the competition to pinpoint the whereabouts of the new knitted face of local law enforcement is maybe nowhere near as entertaining for the general public as those further up the PSNI command structure may imagine.

Constable Cook is not alone is raising eyebrows.

Facebook and Twitter postings of other - real - officers posing, in one instance, in a kiddies' coin-operated truck ride, on another occasion with country star Nathan Carter have also attracted criticism.

As one Facebook commentator puts it re: Constable Cook, 'Is this what policing has come to?'.

It would be fair to say none of these online efforts should be blamed on the individual officers who feature in the pics. It's presumably now official policy to try to up the PSNI's social media profile with chatty, friendly lighthearted postings. They're only doing as they're told.

This is the PSNI as your Facebook friend in epaulettes as opposed to the traditional image of the stern face of authority. And to some extent, it is no bad thing.

The PSNI needs to be in touch with the lifestyle of the people it serves. And to be seen to be in touch.

But Facebooking is no real substitute for, well, booking. Being on Twitter is no substitute for being on the beat.

There is a perception that a proper balance isn't being achieved and that officers are now spending so much time on social media they're being diverted from the real job.

Whether this is entirely fair you can understand why, especially at a time when resources are stretched tighter than Constable Cook's woollen smile, it would grate with those members of the public who want to see more cops out and about.

And not just posing with local celebs or snapping pics of their little knitted colleague.

Some might argue that it's all just a bit of fun, helping the PSNI appear more relevant to the people they serve. But if you've just rung the police only to be told there's no-one available to help right now you may not see it quite so favourably.

You may even see it as infantile, demeaning and a waste of police time.

Presumably the PSNI social media strategists will be aware of this. That there's a thin line between making officers look authoritative but also approachable.

You can’t put Price on a mother’s love

How horrible the row over the care costs for Katie Price’s little boy Harvey. Ms Price has come under fire after she revealed that her disabled child’s transport to day Care costs are being met by the government. She’s a multi-millionairess, say critics. She can afford to pay. She already pays massive taxes say her supporters, why should she pay more?

No mention in this equation of either the child’s father, or indeed former stepfather Peter Andre, and their millions. And suppose this one case is means tested, where does that leave other less wealthy parents? There is a time to quibble over money. The cost of care of a disabled child is not it. Katie Price is a good mother. She deserves the same help from the state as everyone else.

Reminder of best and worst of life

Heartwarming story of the week — news of soaring fund set up to help Alan Barnes, the 4ft 6in disabled pensioner attacked outside his Gateshead home by a thief who broke the wee man’s collarbone.

Katie Cutler (21) was so moved by his plight she set up an online appeal with the initial aim of raising £500. Within a couple of days it had raised the price of a safe new home. By the time you read this Alan may have enough to buy Chelsea Football Club.

Not so heartwarming, though, the reminder that there are maggots out there who see the likes of vulnerable Alan, the two elderly brothers assaulted in west Belfast and the 95-year-old disabled man robbed in Glengormley as fair game. Scum doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Belfast Telegraph