Austerity, terrorism and behaviour change: how police comms has changed since 2013

Everyone talks about how fast communication is moving, and it is so true; back in 2013 we weren't dealing with terror attacks on our doorstep and communication teams in the public sector were just starting to feel the bite of austerity.

Policing comms has changed out of all recognition but the impact of the job remains constant, says Amanda Coleman
Policing comms has changed out of all recognition but the impact of the job remains constant, says Amanda Coleman

For four years I have had the privilege of being the chair of the Association of Police Communicators (APComm), an organisation that represents police communicators in the UK. 

During those years so much has changed, in both policing and the communication industry.

Where in police communication we would previously have been talking about burglary initiatives, we are now talking about behavioural change.

Where we had been focusing on antisocial behaviour, we are now dealing with the threat of terrorism.

In my 18 years in policing I have increasingly come to sympathise with the frontline officer who joins and is expected to know about everything from antisocial behaviour, burglary and online crime through to how to spot extremists, and to do everything with a focus on being approachable and friendly with local people.

The pressure is the same for police communicators, who face the demands of dealing with major incidents as well as developing community engagement activity.

The work demands a broad range of skills that need to be available on a daily basis.

In just one day, we could be asked to speak to a victim’s family about media and communication, provide support to develop social-media channels, advise senior officers about the impact of policy decisions and show the human face of policing.

One thing that has never changed is the impact the work has.

This year has shown how important police communication is and what it can do. At the sharp end of an incident, it can be about protecting and saving lives.

It is why people join police communication teams and why they push themselves to the limit at times. 

The fact that you can help officers save lives and support people facing their darkest days is what drives us when times are hard. 

Often the work goes unrewarded and unrecognised, but this year I have been overwhelmed by the messages of support and recognition given to police communication teams. 

As I step down from my role for APComm, I am proud of what we have achieved across policing.

We are often in the spotlight, but also operating behind the scenes.

Despite the pressures and demands police communicators are doing amazing and innovative work, and I hope this will continue. 

We know the pressures are not going away.

There will be budget constraints, increasing demands, and the need to be on top of communication developments.

Police communicators, and all working in the public sector, need to remember what an honour it is to have the chance to help and support people.  

If we focus on that, then we can meet whatever the future holds with a clear sense of purpose.

On a personal note, I have been grateful for all the support I have had during my time as Chair, and also in the past six months. 

Communicators can be the most generous, thoughtful and supportive people and I want to say thank you.

Amanda Coleman is head of comms at Greater Manchester Police and the former chair of APComm

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