Police officers rapped over Facebook comments

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POLICE officers and staff have been rapped for misuse of social media new figures reveal.

Statistics, obtained via a Freedom of Information request, showed 21 individuals working for Northumbria Police received sanctions, ranging from words of advice to dismissal, over the last four years.

One police officer was caught out three times for making inappropriate comments on social networking site Facebook. The officer in question received sanctions stated as “local resolution”, “management action – words of advice”, and a final written warning.

There were 24 incidents involving 21 individuals: 17 police officers and four police staff.

In 2009/10 a police officer resigned after being reported for breaching the Data Protection Act on a vehicle owners’ club forum.

In the last year a member of police staff was sacked after making inappropriate comments on Facebook.

Three officers and one staff member were sanctioned for breaching the Data Protection Act on Facebook, while one staff member posted inappropriate pictures on the social network.

The remainder of the incidents were related to inappropriate comments on Facebook, and were dealt with by means of written warnings, local resolution, management action and words of advice.

Deputy Chief Constable Steve Ashman said: “Northumbria Police expects the highest standards of professionalism and integrity from all police officers and police staff at every level, which includes the use of social media.

“Advice and guidance is given to officers and staff on the use of social media in a personal capacity to ensure they are aware of the standards that are expected.

“Officers and staff are also reminded nothing is entirely private on social media and that anything put on social networking sites is potentially in the public domain, and is also subject to disclosure in any legal proceedings.

“As one of the region’s largest employers, with more than 5,000 officers and staff, it’s important that the figure of 24 incidents over a five-year period is put into context.”

Figures from Durham Constabulary revealed just one incident, where, in 2012, police community support officers was reported for discreditable conduct by means of an inappropriate comment on Facebook.

The PCSO received a first written warning at a disciplinary hearing.

The force’s head of professional standards and legal services, Darren Ellis, said: “The fact that only one member of staff from Durham Constabulary has been investigated in relation to their use of social media, is a reflection of the strong policy and training methods we have in place relating to this topic.

“We provide guidance to police officers and staff to assist them in setting up and managing accounts, and monitor activity to ensure that the policy is adhered to.”