Social media, engagement and corporate control: Mental Health Cop

16 Feb

I love hobnobs

[Scroll down for links to media coverage, commentary, background on Insp Brown & a link to his cached blog]

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As I was turning in on Friday night, I glanced at twitter to see this, from legal commentator David Allen Green:

“Sorry to say goodbye to two outstanding police Twitter accounts, @MentalHealthCop and @iofiv (aka Nightjack).”

What a shocking turn of events. On checking the Mental Health Cop blog, that was offline too – locked private. The Mental Health Cop facebook page was also down. What had happened to take this award-winning blogger and prolific tweeter offline so suddenly?

If you’re not familiar with Mental Health Cop, he is West Midlands police inspector Michael Brown. His blog and twitter account, which focus on mental health problems from an operational policing perspective, have won several awards. Inspector Brown is a visiting lecturer at several universities, regularly presents at national conferences and gave expert evidence to the 2013 Adebowale Commission (the Independing Commission on Policing and Mental Health) (see here, here and here). He’s also a husband, father, bass player and rugby coach, and likes Hobnobs (no chocolate) and coffee (not tea). Not someone you’d expect to suddenly plunge into internet anonymity.

And yet, he had. And the explanation came later in the day, in the form of a statement from West Midlands police force: the Mental Health Cop twitter account had been suspending pending an investigation into alleged misuse. (The Birmingham Mail speculated that the twitter account had been suspended because Insp Brown had complained about cutbacks (you can read a cache of his last tweets here* and judge for yourself). Insp Brown’s most recent blog post (cached here*) was about police officers managing stress, where he talked about the pressures officers face, including restructuring and resource squeezes.)

Who would have thought a senior police officer – tasked with (amongst other things) ensuring officers on the ground obey the law – couldn’t be trusted to comply with a social media policy? And yet that was the decision taken by the corporate communications department.

The Mental Health Cop twitter account and blog had started off as personal accounts, produced by Insp Brown in his own time. At some stage, West Midlands police stepped in to give the twitter account its official seal of approval. At what stage did this endorsement turn to condemnation, and why?

I will expand this post when I have a moment later in the day or tomorrow but, for now, here are my tweets posted at the time, which set out some of my thoughts. In addition, below you will find links to all the mainstream media and commentary I have come across, so you can catch up fully. Please feel free to tweet or comment below with further links to be added.

What next?

  • At this stage, Insp Brown remains offline, though he can be contacted through twitter (via @NathanConstable). Many people are tweeting their support for Michael and praising his work.
  • Mary O’Hara of the Guardian is inviting people to tell her what you value about Mental Health Cop, for a piece she is writing over the weekend and filing on Monday.
  • People are invited to contact West Midlands Police Force (@WMpolice), Assistant Chief Constable Garry Forsyth (@GarryForsythWMP) (who took the decision to take Mental Health Cop offline), or the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones to let them know why Mental Health Cop should be back on twitter.
  • Insp Brown will be being put through some form of investigation or internal disciplinary procedure by West Midlands Police Force which his boss Forsyth hopes will be resolved in a “matter of days not weeks”. Let’s hope so.

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* Please note that, as at Monday 17th, Insp Brown’s final tweets (referring to the mental health of police and resourcing) and his 11th February blog post (on the mental health of police) no longer appear on search engine caches.

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Web links thumbnail.Below are links to:

  1. Police statements and social media policies
  2. Some reactions on twitter
  3. Mainstream media stories
  4. Commentary
  5. Information on Insp Brown (including blog cache)

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1. Police:

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2. Some reactions on twitter:

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3. Mainstream media:

Saturday 15th February:

Sunday 16th February:

Monday 17th February:

Tuesday 18th February:

In addition, local radio station BBC WM has been running coverage of the story.

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4. Commentary:

Saturday 15th February:

  • Celtic Knot – “Dear @GarryForsythWMP (cc @NathanConstable) My questions about #MentalHealthCop account suspensions concern its proportionality and its wisdom.” (@celticknot)
  • Mental Health Cop“I expect some sort of ‘due process’ must now ensue. But I repeat: the blogs and tweets of @MentalHealthCop must continue. The resource that he has created is simply invaluable.” – A Just Future Fair For All blog by John Harvey
  • In praise of Mental Health Cop“This morning I woke to the very surprising news that Mental Health Cop (also known as Inspector Michael Brown of the West Midlands Police) has closed down his blog, Twitter and Facebook page. I don’t know the reasons for this, and those who do know seem to be rather tight-lipped about it. I have noticed, however, that several other police tweeters have also closed their accounts.”Not So Big Society blog by Phil Dore
  • What you say may be taken down …“The outpouring of respect for @MentalHealthCop this morning and the crossness many are expressing at the action of his bosses proves two things. One, that he did a very good job on Twitter. Two, that West Midlands Police has just pressed the reset button in many people’s minds in terms of its reputation …”Sound Words blog (@soundwords)

Sunday 16th February:

  • Come back soon Mental Health Cop“I sincerely hope that this matter is resolved quickly and that Michael is able to resume his fantastic work very soon.”Stuart Sorensen‘s blog

Monday 17th February:

Tuesday 18th February:

  • @MentalHealthCop under restraint“Certainly Toronto policing needs MentalHealthCop, and likely, a few other places too. Lets just say the whole world needs MentalHealthCop.”Recovery Network Toronto

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5. Who is Mental Health Cop? Some background:Insp Michael Brown Olympics 2012

By Insp Brown:

By others:

  • Interview with Mind Awards winner @MentalHealthCopThe World of Mentalists blog, by Phil Dore (November 2012)
  • Michael Brown: beyond the call of duty“Observing people with mental health issues in custody encouraged a copper to start an award-winning blog”Guardian newspaper profile by Mary O’Hara (December 2012)
  • Michael Brown, winner of the Mark Hanson Digital Media award – “Michael Brown, winner of the Mark Hanson Digital Media Award at last year’s Mind Media Awards, chats to Carl Burkitt about his blog Mental Health Cop for our webwatch page in the Spring issue of Mind Membership News.”Mind Charity (2012)
  • The ‘mental health cop’““I’ve had more than my fair share of policing and mental health incidents and I continue to get them daily on the frontline of British policing,” writes inspector Michael Brown in MentalHealthCop, his award-winning blog.” – NHS Choices

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9 Responses to “Social media, engagement and corporate control: Mental Health Cop”

  1. formerrmn 17 February 2014 at 12:56 pm #

    It’s not just the police who are silenced by their employers.

    Oddly I had blogged about such things in the NHS a couple of weeks ago:

    http://mentalhealthuncovered.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/why-didnt-i-whistle-blow.html

    As I said elsewhere, censorship is alive and well!

  2. Mel 18 February 2014 at 10:50 am #

    Reblogged this on Seeing Rabbits and commented:
    This is very important. Mental Health Cop was the only whistleblower in the police service we had. Bear in mind that if you are sectioned in the UK, you can be taken to a police cell. We need this voice!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Why we need the online presence of MentalHealthCop | Mary O’Hara | Honest Panic Away Reviews - 18 February 2014

    […] someone’s difficulties and making sure they get access to appropriate care. This is the stuff MentalHealthCop has been writing about for the past few years and for which he has won considerable praise. In his blog, which won the […]

  2. Why we need the online presence of MentalHealthCop | Mary O'Hara | Digital News Daily CA - 18 February 2014

    […] someone’s difficulties and making sure they get access to appropriate care. This is the stuff MentalHealthCop has been writing about for the past few years and for which he has won considerable praise. In his blog, which won the […]

  3. Connecting Minds Network :: Why we need the online presence of MentalHealthCop | Mary O’Hara - 18 February 2014

    […] someone’s difficulties and making sure they get access to appropriate care. This is the stuff MentalHealthCop has been writing about for the past few years and for which he has won considerable praise. In his blog, which won the […]

  4. Why we need the online presence of MentalHealthCop | Mary O’Hara | affhealth.co.uk - 19 February 2014

    […] someone’s difficulties and making sure they get access to appropriate care. This is the stuff MentalHealthCop has been writing about for the past few years and for which he has won considerable praise. In his blog, which won the […]

  5. One cop, a police force, and some social media accounts » Co-producing digital mental health - 23 February 2014

    […] accounts. I don’t intend to describe what happened but you can check out @Sectioned_ excellent summary if you aren’t aware of it or would like to find out […]

  6. Mental Health Cop | Stop Stigma - 10 March 2014

    […] difficulties and making sure they get access to appropriate care. This is the stuff MentalHealthCop has been writing about for the past few years and for which he has won considerable praise. In his blog, which won the […]

  7. Section 136: Mental health, places of safety and criminal records | Sectioned - 12 April 2014

    […] Here’s a twitter conversation yesterday about places of safety, mental health and criminal records, including the law relating to section 136 (and yes, it is an arrest; and yes, it is up to police discretion whether to include it in an employer’s DBS check) from the perspective of award winning police inspector Mental Health Cop. […]

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