Police officers have been banned from posting pictures of knives seized on the streets of the West Midlands online over concerns they are stoking fear.
Chiefs have been accused of attempting to censor knife crime with the ruling, which has been passed down to West Midlands police officers.
It has also led to concerns that senior figures are attempting to hide the scale of the region’s knife crime epidemic.
Former Police Federation chair Richard Cooke said he had been told officers were no longer allowed to publish pictures of knives found or seized on social media, which has been a common occurrence over recent years.
Chief Constable Dave Thompson retweeted a post just two weeks ago which included a picture of a large knife and declared “another knife off the streets”.
The reality of the knife crime epidemic now being actively censored. The public deserve to hear and see the truth.
Former Police Federation chair Richard Cooke
Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson has regularly posed for pictures with knives as part of efforts to tackle crime.
West Midlands Police said such images would still be considered for use on official force social media accounts but that officers had been asked not to post them directly.
The force pointed to “research” suggesting being exposed to pictures of weapons can do youngsters “more harm than good”.
Knife crime surged to record levels in the West Midlands before the pandemic, with the offending rate rising faster than London.
Mr Cooke said on Twitter:
“Told we’re no longer allowed to publish pictures of knives we’ve seized.
“This is because police chiefs have decided these images may generate fear.
“The reality of the knife crime epidemic now being actively censored.
“The public deserve to hear and see the truth.”
The Conservative candidate for next year’s Police and Crime Commissioner elections Jay Singh-Sohal labelled the move “woke nonsense” and said he was concerned chiefs were trying to cover up the scale of knife crime.
It is certainly hiding the truth and treating members of the public as children.
Conservative candidate for next year’s Police and Crime Commissioner elections Jay Singh-Sohal
“My concern is we are beginning to dumb down on the brutal and horrifying matter of the crime we are facing.
“Knife crime is certainly one of the worst crimes we are seeing with young people carrying horrific weapons designed to scare and cause an immense amount of damage.
“It is certainly hiding the truth and treating members of the public as children. The police aren’t there to do that. Members of the public can make their own minds up.”
Mr Singh-Sohal also said he believed publicising the fact knives are being taken off the streets can act as a deterrent to those considering carrying weapons.
And he added: “I’m concerned they are not being open and honest about crime on our streets.”
A West Midlands Police spokesman said:
“Our work to tackle knife crime in the West Midlands continues, and a key part of that is updating the public on our work on social media.
“Research among young people has suggested that showing images of knives can actually do more harm than good, and increase the fear of knife crime among them.
“We’re asking our officers to continue posting good news around knife crime arrests and seizures, but to take images of weapons they recover for potential release on force accounts, rather than individual officer accounts, when appropriate.”