Online and under cover: The award-winning NightJack blog is a gritty and addictive insider's view of modern-day policing

Its anonymous author talks to Mark Hughes

If the police arrive to lock you up, say nothing...All you are doing by trying to explain is digging yourself further in." Words of advice from a solicitor, perhaps, or even a hardened criminal who knows how to work the system? Far from it – this is one of the many musings of Jack Night, a serving police officer whose anonymous blog detailing the daily working life of a detective has won him plaudits and prizes.

The online diary, "NightJack - An English Detective", was started just 18 months ago and details the author's frustrations with his force and attempts at the reform of policing which, he says, has turned officers from "approachable neighbourhood figures into neon-clad stormtroopers."

Its honesty and insight meant it quickly became staple reading for 1,500 people who visited the site every time he posted. Earlier this month his undercover work was rewarded when he won the Orwell Prize - one of the most prestigious awards in political writing.

But, despite the praise, the author has remained anonymous, preferring to be known by his online moniker, Jack Night. His hidden identity meant that he was unable to attend the awards ceremony for the Orwell Prize. Instead he sat at home, eating sausages and chips, washed down with a glass of champagne "that had been in the fridge since before Christmas, waiting for an excuse to be opened".

Jack Night's identity is known to The Independent but we have agreed not to reveal anything apart from the fact that he is a detective constable, aged in his mid-40s. His force area and his real name remain a secret.

The diary started in February 2008 when, after reading other police blogs, he decided to start his own. NightJack - the police slang for a detective who works the night shift - was born. "I wanted to write about where I think police reform has taken us in the 20 years that I have been in the force," says its creator, "because I don't think the changes are always good."

In the blog he has been able to give forthright views on a number of policing and political subjects without fear of reprisal from his paymasters. Police Community Support Officers, he says, are: "deployed into inevitable confrontations that they [are] neither equipped or minded to deal with." Teenage yobs, he writes: "Just want to get high, shag your 14-year-old daughter until she is pregnant, and nick your stuff." And lax jail sentences, mean it is: "Entirely possible to live a career of criminal life without facing any serious consequences."

He also treats readers to anecdotes from cases he is working on, such as the rapist he caught after the man left evidence on his mobile phone: "Now me, if I had a video of me molesting a 14-year-old on my phone, If I had used a well-positioned door mirror to video my grinning self on the job...I would delete it. Thank you Bilal you stupid arrogant child rapist." Of a typical arrest with a colleague, he writes: "Lee takes his watch and wallet as trophies. Stamps on Mike's head more for the sake of completeness than anything, I mean, that's just what you do, you stamp the head when they are down. Everyone does that. It's soft not to."

Such honest observations meant that the blog's popularity quickly grew from 20 or 30 readers to more than 3,500 a day.

"The most exciting bit for me was when bloggers I read and respected started linking to my site," Jack Night explains. "When Iain Dale (the Tory blogger) put a link for my blog on his site I was amazed; here was someone I read all the time, acknowledging he liked my stuff. It was like starting a pub band and having Oasis come in and say 'That's not a bad sound you've got there lads'."

Police officers are not normally known for their writing skills as their notepads, so often filled with impenetrable acronyms and undecipherable phrases, can testify. But Jack Night suffers from no such problems with his prose.

In making their award, the judges of the Orwell Prize said: "The insight into the everyday life of the police that Jack Night's wonderful blog offered was - everybody felt - something which only a blog could deliver, and he delivered it brilliantly. It took you to the heart of what a policeman has to do - by the first blogpost you were hooked."

If the stories were addictive reading, Jack Night admits he thoroughly enjoyed the writing process: "I used to do a bit of creative writing when I was younger and did a bit of poetry and songwriting at university, but writing the blog came really naturally. I would start with a fully formed idea and it would just flow."

Despite the obvious pleasure he takes in writing, he managed to keep his blog unknown to his colleagues since its earliest days.

"No one in my force knows that I do the blog, although I think a couple suspect something. A few friends outside of the police know and so do my family. Thankfully I've never had the moment where someone I work with has mentioned it, but it did happen with a friend I go to the gym with. He was talking about the blog and being very complimentary. He asked if I had read it and I felt I had to tell him that, actually, I wrote it. Mind you I don't know how I'd have felt if he'd have slagged it off.

"When [I won the award], I got a bit worried that I was putting my head above the parapet, so to speak, and that I'd be found out. I didn't go to the ceremony, I sent a former colleague of mine on my behalf. He works in a different force and I thought enough time had passed between us working together that no-one would be able to make the link."

The win came with a £3,000 cash prize, but that was immediately donated to the Police Dependants' Trust, a charity which provides financial support for the relatives of police officers killed or injured in the line of duty.

"There was no way I, as an anonymous blogger, could keep the money," he says, "Besides, I blog for pleasure, not profit."His email inbox is now bulging with congratulations. "But the most touching was from the British Library who asked if they could add my blog to the national archive. Of course I said yes. Maybe in a few years people will look back and laugh at the fact my writing is in there, but I don't care."

As expected, publishers are hovering around the blog's explosive contents, and one book deal was already on the table before the prize, but the author has rejected them all. Yet he does plan to write a novel, in his real name, and says he will reject the temptation to use the blog to help launch a writing career.

"That would involve telling people who I am and I don't want to do that. I love my job. I get to investigate some of the most serious crime in my area. I would never want to give it up. To reveal my identity would put my employer between a rock and a hard place. It could possibly be career-ending and I wouldn't want that."

And the subject of his forthcoming book? "The police," he laughs. "If you read my blogs you'll realise that after 20 years in this business I don't know about much else."



Nightjack.wordpress.com

Suggested Topics
Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
tvReview: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
Review: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Sport
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull
football
Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
film
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit