Anonymity And The Internet | ARV Cop | Guest Blog

Our new ‘Must Read’ section is dedicated to sharing the words of some of the top bloggers from within the emergency services, NHS and armed forces – both past and present. 

The blogs are hand-picked by our team but do not necessarily represent the views of Emergency Services News.

Instead, they reflect the experiences of individuals who have first-hand experience of what they are writing about.

Today’s blog is written by a serving armed response officer: 

‘As a Firearms Officer, I am allocated a pseudonym at work, to hide my identity and afford me anonymity.

‘This is to be used if I am involved in very serious matter and I am involved in a criminal investigation. I am the only person that knows my pseudonym other than the person that allocates them at work. I don’t know anyone else’s. The pseudonym is along the lines of A12.

‘When I joined this department, during the training course, we had a classroom session regarding anonymity, why we have it, when we can’t have it and when it can be overturned and our true identity is revealed.

Basically we are allowed the anonymity for our own protection and for the protection of our families. We were advised that the press would do everything they could to find out who we were and try to find our true identity.

‘The press would use every avenue to find us. If the press do identify us, there is a very good chance of them visiting every family member they can find. My family are fully aware of this and accept that this may happen.

‘All uniformed police officers display their identifying numbers, usually on their shoulders. Some force areas have the surname of the officer also on display. I believe that I have also seen some officers with their first name on display too.

‘Some of you may not see anything wrong with this, but I don’t agree with having your full name on display. A collar/shoulder numbers and surname are more than enough in my opinion.

‘That is more than sufficient to identify the officer. When we are arresting and dealing with criminals, why would you want them to know anymore about you than is necessary.

‘When I say All uniformed officers show their numbers, not all of them show their collar/shoulder number.

‘Firearms officers, at least in my force, do not. We don’t show them as we could be identified by them. If we get identified by them, our anonymity is blown and a Judge may withdraw our rights to it.

‘If a Judge withdraws this right, we will be named in the press and then our safety and the safety of our families is in question.

‘Go back 10 years and our anonymity wasn’t such a big deal. I say this only because there were hardly any pictures or video footage of firearms officers doing their job.

‘Only if it was a long, protracted deployment and the press turned up Would the photographs be taken and published.

‘That is no longer the case. We are constantly being photographed and recorded. Almost everyone now has a mobile phone with a camera and recording capabilities.

‘At almost every deployment we attend, do we get filmed and/or photographed. Our press department even encourages people to come over and ask for a photograph with us when we are not deployed.

‘At almost every firearms deployment we attend, do we get filmed. I have been on more than one such job and we have been live streamed on Facebook.

‘I don’t get it.

‘We are there with guns out, generally pointing them towards a house/car/person and we are shouting. We do this for a reason. Why why why would you want to hang around?

‘Why come out of your own house or car and put yourselves at potential risk? I’ll tell you why…it’s today’s society.

‘Everything goes online now. Everyone wants to share with everyone else what they are seeing, doing and eating!

‘You may see officers with face coverings, especially firearms officers.

‘I’ve done that on several occasions when I know that we will attract a crowd. My reasons for this being that the more photographs and videos of me that end up on the internet, the more likely of me being identified if I’m involved in a trial.

‘In 2011 there were riots in London and other cities across the UK.

‘The trigger point for this was the police shooting of Mark Duggan. Local residents and family and friends marched to the Police Station and wanted answers to what had happened.

‘This led to a demonstration which escalated into the riots. Seven police officers were allowed to remain anonymous during the trial in this case.

‘I believe very strongly that this was right. This is just one such example and I have used this one purely as most will know of it.

‘Firearms Officers volunteer for this role.

‘We do it for no extra money. We do it knowing that we will attend the most serious of incidents and come face to face with the most serious and dangerous offenders.

‘We know that we will only pull the trigger if absolutely necessary.

‘Why should the safety of us and our families be put into doubt because we have done our job?

AM.’

To follow the author of this blog on Twitter, then search for ‘@AMagistratus’

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