No, this isn’t a prop from some camp version of telly sci-fi hit, Dr Who.
Even with Russell T Davies (the innovative writer who penned brilliant and groundbreaking gay drama, Queer as Folk) reviving the popularity of the timelord, I don’t think David Tennent will be stepping out across the space-time continuum any time soon in a lavendar Tardis.
In actual fact this fuchsia police box isn’t a prop of any sort. It is a very real, very bright, warning sign. A 10ft pink testament to the folly which has gripped the senior management of Lothian and Borders Police.
It is, if you will, an outrageous neon proclamation that says: We’ve lost credibility among our own officers. We’ve lost the support of the media. We’re fast losing the confidence of the public. And now we’re a laughing stock among every flavour of ned, Niddron and ne-er do well.
I’ve watched with disbelief the goings-on at Fettes police HQ for the past 18 months. First a press office which enjoyed the best media relations in Scotland was methodically dismantled for no good reason and the force began, quite deliberately, to alienate the media.
That kind of actions is never a good sign, as it invariably and inevitably precedes the slow creep of control freakery, politically correct paranoia and an insidious, “We know best. All the time. Every time” philosophy.
In short, it smacks of the Thought Police. Of an organisation so convinced of its own worth and rightness that, even when it is hopelessly out of touch and sync with everything and everyone else, it believes the tide of naysayers, critics and objectors can be reduced, rebuffed or re-educated.
And so it has proved at L&B. Blunder after misjudgement after folly after cringemaking faux pas has followed. From senior officers appearing very publicly in gay pin-up competions, through flying rainbow coloured flags to this week’s expensive corporate “rebrand” which met near universal derision.
There isn’t a journalist (even though he’s a PR man these days) in Scotland with better contacts inside Lothian and Borders than Stephen Rafferty – and his blog has been merciless in exposing these follies today and in previous posts (click here and also here).
Meanwhile in an article in the Daily Express , Scottish Politicial Editor Kerry Gill pointed out:
In the case of Lothian and Borders, people might be forgiven for thinking that a police force that needs to be better recognised must be doing a remarkably bad job … Unfortunately when a venerable organisation such as a police force attempts to improve its market place image, not only is the motivation wrong – they are not in a marketplace in the first place – we naturally suspect what is behind the change … Their attempts to convey an image become a cover, we suspect, for failing to successfully uphold the law.
No doubt the police will be writing off recent criticism as the huffy stropping of a jilted media. But how do they write off the fetching paint job given by some particularly bold vandals to this police box at The Wisp – just a short distance from the Niddrie and Craigmillar housing schemes?
They can’t. Because the truth is the force is now a laughing stock – and even the Neds are letting them know it. L&B were caught out when a branding expert said their new logo “wasn’t very arresting”. The lack of “arrest factor” probably won’t stop there – and I’ll bet nobody is brought to book for this cheeky piece of vandalism.
Collars are what count when it comes to juding our cops. Not how easy it is to recognise their logo; how gay or other minority friendly they are or even how efficiently they run their media relations office. Right now, the only collars needing felt are those of Chief Constable David Strang and his Deputy, Tom Halpin.
They must be wishing for a time machine of their own. Even if it was just to revisit happier days when the store of media goodwill built up over many years might just have helped them through their current image crisis.