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Hundreds Of Police Officers Investigated Over Social Media Use

Max ‘Beast from the East’ Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope.

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The law enforcement is struggling with Facebook and Twitter

Hundreds of police officers have been investigated for breaching social media guidelines, with the most complaints filed in Greater Manchester.

According to the Freedom of Information requests obtained by Associated Press and seen by the BBC, there have been 828 investigations into the use of social media across the UK police forces since 2009. Out of these, 74 resulted in resignation, dismissal or retirement.

The mistakes on public-facing websites included everything from racist comments to posing for selfies with a weapon and trying to chat up crime victims online.

London Metropolitan Police has registered 69 cases of this type.

Taking it seriously

Over the past five years, there have been 828 cases of inappropriate use of social media by the police, and just 14 percent resulted in no action.

Some of the more interesting examples of rule-breaking include a Gwent police officer who was given a written warning after he “inappropriately” asked a female member of the public to be his friend on Facebook during a house visit. Another PC from the force got his final written warning after his superiors discovered he was posing with his weapon on Facebook.

chrisdorneyAt least one of the officers received a warning for using Facebook to send an “abusive” message to an Internet troll. And at least one member of the civilian staff was fired over “excessive and inappropriate use of the Internet during working hours”.

The Code of Ethics recently launched by the College of Policing states that the officers must “ensure that nothing you publish online can reasonably be perceived by the public or your policing colleagues to be discriminatory, abusive, oppressive, harassing, bullying, victimising, offensive or otherwise incompatible with policing principles.”

The officers also shouldn’t publish any material that might undermine their own reputation or damage public confidence in the police service.

“Everyone in policing has to remember that if you’re not prepared to put it in a local newspaper with your name at the bottom, then don’t say it on social media,” Alex Marshall, chief executive of the College of Policing, told the BBC.

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