Between the lines…


So for those of you who are fans of or are just getting into Line of DUty this week’s post does contain spoilers so if you don’t want to impact your enjoyment of the programme you might want to give this week’s blog a miss.

Well it’s been a decade long build up to what must surely be the finale of Line of Duty. Since it aired on Sunday, watched by a record audience of nearly 13m people, there has been condemnation and outcry at how the series concluded. Underwhelming said some and creator Jed Mercurio has been forced to come out in defence of the ending. My own reflection is that the conclusion was spot on but the reaction to it contains some lessons that relate to inclusion work.

The first key lesson is an understanding of what systemic, institutionalised problems actually are. A perception that a small team of driven individuals can on their own remove these issues from an institution as sizeable as the police force is in my view more laughable than the chosen ending. The issues that were tackled by the show were deep rooted and held in place by those in power. It reminded me of the Frederick Douglass quote “If there is no struggle there is no progress… Power concedes nothing without demand”. It was clear that the handful of upstanding officers in AC-12 were doomed to fail as there were far too many higher ranking individuals keen to maintain the status quo. Despite this some held onto the romantic vision that ‘good’ will always overcome ‘evil’. It takes time, effort and the work of many to change an organisation’s culture

My second observation relates to Detective Superintendent Buckells. A lot of people have felt that him being the 4th man was incredulous because of his ineptitude. However, I am sure many of us can recall someone being promoted despite their incompetence. Within our own organisations do we see favouritism in promotion? Do we see people who resemble those in senior positions being elevated? This isn’t just a story of corruption it’s also a story of homogeneous leadership teams – organisations where it feels safer to promote individuals into senior positions who have similar backgrounds, thoughts and styles to existing staff.

DSI Ian Buckells

My final reflection is about what ‘institutional’ (corruption, racism, homophobia) really means and how the term has been unhelpfully misinterpreted. Line of Duty made a poignant tribute to both Stephen Lawrence and Christopher Adler in series 6 and I feel the link was made intentionally to draw comparisons about the lack of progress in addressing institutional racism in the police force. When the term was coined in the MacPherson report it had a very specific meaning.

“discrimination or unequal treatment on the basis of membership of a particular ethnic group (typically one that is a minority or marginalised), arising from systems, structures, or expectations that have become established within an institution or organisation.”

My feeling is that the ‘institutional’ element of the term has been unhelpfully misinterpreted. For some I sense that they perceive the phrase to mean that everyone / the majority of individuals within an organisation are racist or corrupt or homophobic etc… This causes an allergic reaction to the term and an unwillingness to use it. I think it is important to acknowledge that it’s the system and structures that are the issue in many organisations as well as the people that enable, uphold and maintain them. Their numbers can often be small but they will create the culture and processes to continue the status quo. Institutional and systemic issues preventing equality permeate all aspects of our society. It will take significant effort from the majority of us to try and topple them. There are people in positions of influence and power that will be desperate to maintain them. A few brave and committed souls working in isolation are never likely to succeed as the odds are stacked so heavily against them. So in my humble opinion, Jed Mercurio got the finale of his brilliant series absolutely spot on and if we really want to change things in our society there is a long and difficult road ahead. #ImNotTired are you?

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