London's head of police Bernard Hogan-Howe held his first Twitter Q&A yesterday afternoon, answering questions sent in to #askmetboss. Well, he answered some — the topic became so popular it started trending in London. In among the inevitable stupid ones ("Have you ever worn bacon pyjamas at christmas?" "Do you trim your pubes?") there were some genuine, heartfelt and angry questions, about Mark Duggan, the impartiality and effectiveness of the IPCC, the attitude of the police at public protests, the riots, deaths in custody, stop and search, the Olympics...
Inevitably time constraints meant nowhere near everything got addressed, but it's worth taking a look at the @metpoliceuk timeline to see what did get picked, and the way Hogan-Howe chose to answer them.
@matthewrushton1: do you think the use or tasers will increase the number of complaints against met officers and how will complaints be dealt with
@metpoliceuk: no. more avail may not lead to more use of tasers, but quicker access for officers.
@SueHeard: For you personally, what has been the high point and the lowest point of the last year?
@metpoliceuk: in 12 weeks high point getting the job, low point break at xmas!
@LondonEmmDee: What are you going to do to restore the trust of peaceful protesters intimidated by kettling, agg trespass etc.
@metpoliceuk: By xmas review of tactics will be with me - announce results in spring.
@RizwaanSabir: How does it make you feel knowing that millions of people in the UK consider @metpoliceuk to be one of the most repressive? [One of a number of questions this tweeter asked]
@metpoliceuk: I don't agree its a liberal democracy adn you'vve just had your question.
@DanielStarling1: what do you see as the major issues affecting policing today?
@metpoliceuk: Less money, public protest olympic prepearations.
@HeardinLondon: was authorisation to use rubber bullets prior to student demo a deliberate move to frighten folk from protesting?
@metpoliceuk: No authorisation to use, they have been available for 30 years. We gave honest answer to straight q.
@STANDBY1: Sir look at west mids police on how social media can help prevent crime. Here in me we seem behind the times with our use of it
@metpoliceuk: Agree. Here on twitter now. we're catching up
@RomeoJ_North: Why has it taken 4 months to deal with the Mark Duggan case? and why are police harassing us on a daily basis?
@metpoliceuk: IPCC led inquiry. has to be thorough rather than quick.
@wilkotwig: I'm not from London but what effect will the government cuts have on front line policing as a country?
@metpoliceuk: We'll have to work harder.
@chris_underwood: The police in W12 have a habit of flying helicopters overhead in the early hours - are there rules around this?
@metpoliceuk: Only flys when needed, usually to pursue criminals. Follow the helicopter on Twitter in the new year.
Is it just us, or does this look like hard-issue dodging? On tricky topics, the questions picked were open enough to be interpreted how the police wanted (and the 'highs and lows' question might as well have been 'what's your favourite colour?'). At a time when relations between police and policed are awful in certain areas, the Met's PR exercise needs to actually engage rather than blandly whitewash. Similar observations were made of a recent appearance by the Commissioner at Lewisham College.
Someone did tweet from the police account that any "reasonable" questions will get answered on the website, so we wait to see what's considered "reasonable" (we hope they remember that questions from 'the usual suspects' are also not invalid just because they're from activists). Full transcript on the Met's website.