Communications has had a really vital role in helping our communities and our staff and officers understand and react to the coronavirus threat. This series of blogs highlights the critical roles we, as communicators, have played in helping the policing family tackle the complexities of the last six months.
I recently hit the three-month mark since I started my new role as an Assistant Media and Communication Officer at the Metropolitan Police Service. Aside from the natural feelings of excitement and nervousness that come with starting a new job, I also had to grapple with an additional element of being a new starter, which was joining the Met during lockdown.
Starting a new job in the middle of a global pandemic has certainly been a somewhat strange experience. However, my concerns around how everything will work logistically, how I will get to know my colleagues and how I will get to grips with my new role without any prior policing experience soon went out of the window. Regular meetings and check-ins with my team and the wider department proved to be very helpful and made it easier to build personable relationships with colleagues while working remotely. The department has truly embraced the opportunities that technology brings and it feels peculiar that I can recognise most of my colleagues by the sound of their voices, but not their faces.
Despite joining the Met during lockdown, work has been keeping me busy. By day three, I was up in the early hours of the morning, ready to venture out on my very first pre-planned warrant as officers worked to disrupt a county lines drug line being run from Hackney to Norwich. Fast forward a couple of weeks, I was out with officers on my second warrant, and this time I had a new starter with me, as well as camera crew to capture the morning’s events.
In addition to working on various impactful communications that the department has delivered over the last few weeks, I was also involved in one of the Met’s biggest investigations to date. Operation Grange dominated the news agenda at the beginning of June as the team worked across the UK, Germany and Portugal to launch the latest media appeal, divulging the most significant developments on the Madeleine McCann case. Following the media briefing on 3 June, I woke up the next day, on my birthday, to find the story on the front page of every single UK newspaper.
The majority of the work my team is doing at the moment is centred around public order, which is our biggest portfolio, followed by the Roads and Transport Policing Command which also has a considerably large command unit. Working on public order events in the Special Operation Room (SOR) has been an extremely insightful introduction to policing and has enabled me to quickly pick up knowledge and different means of working in a dynamic environment.
The SOR can only be described as the beating heart of Met’s response to large scale events and major incidents across London, where most of the operational decisions are made. The large basement room is filled with giant wall screens displaying live CCTV camera footage from across the capital and contains pods in a spider web like presentation, seating hundreds of people that are all feeding in different pieces of information to the Commanders.
When my team is based in SOR, we are typically dealing with large scale demonstrations and public disorder events that can sometimes result in violence. Community tensions have increased in recent weeks and the work that we undertake as communicators often has the potential to either calm the scenes on the ground or if not done well we worry about adding to the already high community tension. So much is dependent on the words and images we use when communicating to the public. The environment in SOR is like no other, where time flies by and before you can blink twice, it is suddenly 9 o’clock in the evening.
The experience has been invaluable, providing better insight into what goes on behind the scenes of a complex public order operation and how all the different parts of the command, including Bronze Commanders on the ground, our communications team, community engagement team, and the traffic team, who are in charge of blocking the roads, are all feeding in centrally.
It has been particularly interesting being in constant contact with the Gold and Silver Commanders, as well as working among officers in the room. Close relationships with units like the Bronze Crime team are also really important, as they update us on arrests figures and those in custody fast time, meaning we can respond to media who often want these statistics as quickly as possible.
Overall, I am impressed and inspired to see how the whole department has continued to work together during such a difficult period and has risen to every challenge presented. My colleagues have been nothing short of outstanding and I am grateful for their support. All in all, I have enjoyed getting to know my colleagues – a lot of them through virtual coffee meetings – and I am excited to go back to the office on a full-time basis once it is safe for us to do so.
Gerda Pinciute, Assistant Media and Comms Officer at Met Police