Monday, 16 November 2009
What is it about the `truth` that is so difficult to swallow?
Nothing much to say at the moment, but I did see the story in the news of the escaped killer recaptured. When read in conjunction with Inspector Gadget's post, here, it reminded me of how the simplest of words, even when they are simply true, can upset senior people in organisations facing the enquiring gaze of Joe and Josephine Public. I was called to a secure psychiatric unit because one of the patients had `escaped`. I put escaped in `commas` because after having heard the facts of the missing persons disappearance, it suddenly didn't seem so `secure` a unit to me. This person had attempted to murder his father by stalking him and then shooting him in the head with a crossbow. Luckily, the bolt struck at a shallow angle and glanced off the skull. Having gathered all the facts and knowing that there were probably less than 130 officers on duty in my entire police force at that time, I decided that, as is usually the case, the best way to catch this person quickly was to engage the support of the public by way of a press release. This I drafted before running it past our duty press officer. She gave it the thumbs up. I brought this back to our tactical meeting at the hospital unit and ran it past the key staff. By this time, the general manager of the unit was present, having been called back to duty. I read out my press release to the group. The manager raised his hand and said he had to object to one small point. He did not like the following phrase: "This man should be considered as dangerous and, if sighted, should not be approached by the public who should alert the police by way of an emergency 999 call". The senior manager objected to the escapee being described as dangerous. I noticed the senior nurse roll her eyes. I have always viewed senior nurses as the backbone of the health service and always take great store from their opinions, being at the working, hands-on end of their profession. I checked my notes and read them out to him. The senior nurse says, "he is prone to violent outbursts and when this happens he has to be physically restrained and then sedated". Two other nurses say he has, "assaulted them, as well as several other members of staff and will use whatever comes to hand as a weapon". He has made regular threats both verbally, and in writing, stating his intention to, "find and kill his family by any available means". So, I asked the senior manager from where, amongst those observations from his key staff, he concluded that this person was not dangerous? His reply was, "Well he's not dangerous when he takes his medication". After a short pause, and a deep intake of breath, I said that if he could guarantee that his missing patient was still taking his medication whilst at large then I'd be glad to take this into account. I didn't wait for his response because I had far more important things to worry about than his reputation, because that was exactly what his comment was about. I immediately recognised this senior manager as being from the same school of senior managment that was befuddling my own job. My press release went out exactly as I'd drafted it. The patient was re-captured the following day after a 999 call from a member of the public.