Police Scotland ridiculed over ‘branding’ guide

The guidelines include instructions on how to pose for photos. Picture (posed by models): John Devlin
The guidelines include instructions on how to pose for photos. Picture (posed by models): John Devlin
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POLICE Scotland has come under fire after it was revealed the force had issued a 40-page document of “branding guidelines” for officers.

The glossy document gives detailed instructions on a range of issues from advice on how to strike a pose for photos, to the right shade of blue to use when printing out documents.

“No hunched shoulders, crossed armed or arrogant pose. These poses do not reflect our brand values”

Branding Guidance document

Officers are even told to ditch their body armour in photos if it looks “too bulky” and to make sure there are “no hunched shoulders, crossed armed or arrogant pose”.

Graeme Pearson, MSP, a former head of the Scottish Drug and Crime Enforcement Agency, said the document was “further evidence of what is wrong with the current culture” at the force.

The branding guidelines are meant to boost the force’s image but Police Scotland is reeling over a series of rows involving excessive use of stop and search powers, officers openly carrying firearms on routine calls, an £11 million funding black hole threatening front-line services, and the management style of Chief Constable Sir Stephen House.

The “Branding Guidance” document – version 1.2 dated September 2014 – was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The 40 pages give extremely detailed instructions on how police should maintain the force’s “brand personality”. It says officers should use business card design, internal signage, logo placement, font choices and body language to help them “evoke emotions of confidence, inclusion, freedom and security”.

Explaining their blue colour scheme, the guide says it was chosen “as blue hues typically portray calmness, positivity, honesty and protection”.

It goes on: “The darker Pantone 288 Blue represents our more traditional, professional and protective side whereas the Pantone Process Blue represents our more modern thinking and accessible approach.”

Officers are given advice on different styles of photography, such as “narrative portraiture”.

“Watch body language,” officers are told. “No hunched shoulders, crossed armed or arrogant pose. These poses do not reflect our brand values.

“Uniform should not look too bulky (remove body armour if needed).”

The guidance goes on to say officers should use only size 12 or 14 font, which should never be in italics or underlined, and prescribes the exact font to be used because “typography can unconsciously imply emotional content.”

Mr Pearson was far from impressed with the branding guidelines. He said: “The exercise is further evidence of what is wrong with the current culture. Officers and staff merely need to be honest and forthright in their dealings with the public and media.

“If both Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority seek the public to have confidence in them, both organisations must demonstrate greater candour in their dealings and a respect for the very people they serve – the public.”

Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said the document showed police were “misguided in their priorities”.

He said: “Every penny of taxpayers’ money spent on the police needs to deliver on the front line, and it’s hard to see how elaborate branding exercises achieve that.

“The public want bobbies on the beat, not marketing consultants on a taxpayer-funded gravy train.”

A police spokesman said: “It’s entirely appropriate that an organisation such as Police Scotland has such guidelines in place.”

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