Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Law & Order : Police want plain English over political correctness

Having to be politically correct seems to be taking its toll on our Police forces, as the Scottish Police Federation are to put forward a proposal to write reports in plain English (better include spellcheckers for them too ! – Ed)

The Scotsman reports :

Police officers want to scrap ploddledygook and use plain English instead

Published Date: 15 April 2009
By Michael Howie

THEY have traditionally had fun poked at them for phrases such as "what 'ave we got here, then?" and "the suspect proceeded in a westerly direction".

But the growth of management speak in recent years has seen the police increasingly resort to a plethora of politically correct phrases that often serve only to confuse and irritate.

A new logo introduced by Lothian and Borders' finest last year, for example, was meant to not only help people recognise the force but represent a "new tone of voice".

And obscure acronyms that are meaningless to virtually anyone other than the police – ACPOS, SPSA, SCDEA and SID being four of the better known ones – have abounded.

Now, rank-and-file officers have launched a bid to rid the police service of what has come to be known as "ploddledygook".

The Scottish Police Federation's annual conference will next week discuss a proposal to ensure their reports are written in plain English.

The move comes from officers at Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary, who say they are frustrated by the police's convoluted lexicon.

"The mover of the motion feels strongly that for too long the police service has chosen verbosity over accuracy and clarity and that in 2009 there should be a return to plain English," says a report to go before members.

"Too many documents are crowded with management terminology and buzz phrases which wax and wane in popularity.

A return to plain English would avoid confusion and doubt about exactly what we are saying and meaning and would benefit not only the police service but the communities we serve."

One officer admitted last night that officers were guilty of using overly complicated language.

Constable Allan Scott, a media liaison officer at Lothian and Borders Police, said: "It's a fair cop.

"We are guilty of using too many acronyms – such as 'this SPOC has to do this'. If you're not in the know, you're left thinking 'what is an SPOC?' (It stands for single point of contact.]

"So you end up putting things in brackets, which only makes the document longer."

But he said police were already taking steps to tidy up their language.

"We have recently got away from the stupid-speak and try to use normal-speak as much as possible," Mr Scott said.

But he insisted the rules on giving evidence in criminal court cases meant police would have to continue using phrases such as "the suspect did then aggressively resist arrest" when they really meant "he swung at me". He said: "There is a requirement for that in a court of law."

The Plain English Campaign has also been calling on police forces to use simpler language when communicating with the public.

Examples of "ploddledygook" picked out by the campaign include Norfolk Police's description of its control room – where crimes are reported – as "Citizen Focus Command".

Last night, Marie Clair, spokeswoman for Plain English Campaign, gave a warm welcome to the latest proposal.

"This is a constructive move to get plain language into our information, where jargon and gobbledygook can be so frustrating not only for the public, but also the police employees who have to deal with it daily.

"A respectful, common-sense approach that is clear and honest can deal with most communications, including any sensitive issues, and avoid the need for excessive political correctness," she said.

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