UK & World News
Hundreds Of Police Breach Rules On Social Media
Hundreds of police employees have been investigated for breaching social media guidelines at forces across England and Wales.
The figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, show a total of 828 cases were reported to police, ranging from social media gaffes to sackable offences involving harassment, and posts of a sexual, racist or homophobic nature.
A total of 14% of the investigations resulted in no further action being taken or the individual having no case to answer, but 9% ended in a resignation, dismissal or retirement.
The police regularly use Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and other social media platforms to connect with the public and to help with crime prevention and detection.
Greater Manchester Police recently posted the 7,000th image on its Flickr account.
Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) guidelines state officers and police staff should avoid using the internet while off-duty or after having drunk alcohol, due to the potential for their judgement to be impaired.
They also warn of the propensity for criminals to trawl the internet and identify personal information about police employees "with a view to embarrassing, discrediting, harassing, corrupting or blackmailing them or their families for their own benefit".
Deputy Chief Constable Ian Hopkins, of Greater Manchester Police, is the ACPO lead on social media.
"Social media is a key tool for us in having conversations with communities, using it not only to pass information but to receive information about crime and incidents, help people make informed choices," he said.
"All police employees are covered by the code of ethics that was introduced earlier this year.
"So staff must act with integrity, with fairness, with honesty, openness, and regardless of whether they are tweeting as John Smith or Joanna Smith, if they are recognisable as a PC or a member of police staff, then they have to be taking into account the code of ethics."
According to the Press Association, who submitted the FOI request, the investigations included:
:: A PCSO with Devon and Cornwall Police who received a final written warning for posting photos on Facebook of themselves with weapons.
:: A civilian member of police staff who posted a comment on Facebook regarding the actions of Muslims in central London failing to observe a two-minute silence. It was alleged the language used "could be regarded as offensive/inappropriate or likely to cause offence to other persons", police said.
:: A Gwent PC who acted inappropriately while attending a member of the public's home address and asked her to become a friend on Facebook, later sending a message through the site. They received a written warning.
:: Two special constables in Northampton who resigned after they were pictured on Facebook in a "compromising position".
:: A civilian with South Yorkshire Police who was accused of harassing an ex-partner via Facebook. They resigned prior to misconduct proceedings.
Chief Constable Alex Marshall, chief executive of the College of Policing, said: "People working in policing must always be mindful of the high standards that the public expect from us.
"Our code of ethics, which was launched last month, sets out the standards which everyone in the service should strive to uphold whether at work or away from work, online or offline."
Additional details provided by most forces under FOI laws showed 548 of those investigated were police officers, compared with 175 civilian staff and 31 PCSOs.