Katie Griffith has undertaken work experience this summer both at Shooting Star PR and at Lincolnshire Police. Here she takes a look at the image of the police and how the Olympic torch relay has given the force an opportunity for some positive PR.
With just two weeks to go until the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games the torch relay has travelled through cities, towns and villages and has been transported in a variety of ways, such as on our very own Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway and down Grimsby Dock Tower. The torch relay is meant to generate interest in the Olympics, but it has also had another, more unexpected effect by creating some positive PR for our often maligned police force.
The reputation of the police, rightly or wrongly, is often debated in current affairs and in society itself. The close relationship between the police and journalists is something which is currently being scrutinised through the Leveson inquiry. While some may feel that the efforts of the police during the Lincolnshire torch relay were a waste of public money – evident from responses on Lincolnshire Police’s Facebook page – you could argue that without their presence the event might not have run so smoothly.
In the past few months the police have not only boosted their own profile but also added a gloss to the UK’s image overseas by aiding events and showing how civilised and patriotic we Brits can be. From the royal wedding last summer to the Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and now the torch relay, the police have been present throughout to ensure the smooth running of events.
Observing the way the police operated when the torch came through Lincoln reminded me of the royal wedding last year, when some police officers took on comedy roles to warm the crowd up while keeping the event a peaceful and safe one.
In Lincoln police officers adopted the same role, talking to the public and exchanging laughter. Officers on motorbikes passed the lined barriers slowly to gives high fives to the excited crowds and made the day that little bit more memorable for the waiting school children.
I was pleased to see this same practice was repeated when the torch visited my own village in Warwickshire, where in 20 years I have never seen a police officer on foot. It was cameras at the ready as the torch passed through but the cameras remained out as officers were more than happy to have their photograph taken with the local school children, one police officer even offering her hat to a young girl to wear while her grandma took the photograph.
All in all the success of the torch events, helped by the intense media coverage and the sharing of images on the Internet and through social networking sites, has given the police some quality PR and in return has helped Britain’s global reputation.
I only hope that as the torch concludes its tour and the games begin the police continue to be a positive figure in our society, as in times of uncertainty public reassurance is needed most.
Katie Griffith studies Journalism at the University of Lincoln and worked with Lincolnshire Police during the Olympic Torch relay event in Lincoln.