Police probe social media cases
Police officers and civilians made racist and threatening comments on Facebook and Twitter, sent friend requests to victims of crime and uploaded images of colleagues in "compromising positions", new details show.
Hundreds of police employees have been investigated for breaching social media guidelines at forces across England and Wales during a five-year period, according to documents obtained by the Press Association.
A total of 828 cases were reported to police bosses, ranging from social media gaffes to sackable offences which threatened to bring forces into disrepute.
About a seventh (14%) of all investigations resulted in no further action or the personnel having no case to answer. This compared with around a tenth of cases (9%) ending in a resignation, dismissal or retirement.
In Lancashire, a member of civilian staff received a written warning over derogatory remarks posted on their Facebook page about a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) who had issued the staff member with a fine for dog fouling.
A Pc with the same force also received management action after it was alleged they made inappropriate remarks on Facebook regarding someone's wife.
A fellow constable resigned over their "excessive and inappropriate use of the internet during working hours", in particular the Pc's use of online auction sites, internet banking and social networking sites.
A colleague received counselling after an investigation into a Facebook photo of the staff member asleep whilst on duty in the Control Room.
According to Gwent Police, a Pc 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.
Another Pc also received the same punishment after using Facebook to send a message to a member of the public which was of an "abusive nature".
A PCSO with Devon and Cornwall Police received a final written warning for posting photos on Facebook of themselves with weapons.
A sergeant with the same force received a written warning after putting remarks on Facebook displaying disloyalty to force and remarks about senior officers.
An employee with Dyfed Powys sent was accused of being " threatening, bullying and intimidating towards a complainant by sending private messages via Facebook".
Two special constables in Northampton resigned after they were pictured on Facebook in a "compromising position".
According to Nottinghamshire Police, incidents of employees receiving management action included for a constable who chatted on Facebook with a member of the public and posted "confidential information concerning an upcoming police operation" while another posted comments "regarding their dissatisfaction at having to work on an upcoming police operation".
A civilian officer posted a comment on a Facebook account 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 likely to cause offence to other persons", police said.
A civilian with South Yorkshire Police was accused of harassing an ex-partner via Facebook.They resigned prior to misconduct proceedings.
Similarly, Suffolk Constabulary said a sergeant was reprimanded after accessing an ex-partner's private Facebook account.
They received a misconduct hearing regarding this and other matters, and were eventually dismissed.
A member of police staff in Wiltshire resigned after an investigation that he or she " demonstrated inappropriate behaviour" by posting a comment on the official force Facebook site in relation to the police authority rescinding their decision not to pay police staff their pay rise in 2010.
Various forces also said there were investigations into comments that were deemed homophobic, racist or "religiously aggressive".
Greater Manchester Police reported the most investigations (88), followed by West Midlands (74) and the Met (69).
A total of 13 forces reported having ten or fewer investigations between January 2009 and February 2014.
Additional details provided by most forces under Freedom of Information laws showed 548 of those investigated were police officers, compared with 175 civilian staff and 31 PCSO.
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.
"The vast majority of police officers and staff uphold these high standards and in many cases are responsible for challenging and reporting colleagues who act improperly or unlawfully. Where people working in policing have undermined their own reputation or that of the wider service, they must face appropriate action.
"These figures include relatively minor matters, which can be dealt with by management advice, through to cases of misconduct which, quite rightly have resulted in officers and staff losing their jobs. There is no place in policing for officers who abuse the trust placed in us by the public."
Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: "Social media is an incredibly useful tool for engaging with local communities and gathering intelligence. Forces must ensure officers are effectively trained and aware of the latest social media protocols.
"Officers have an important story to tell, and it is vital the public hears what they have to say. Officers are always on duty and need to abide by the codes of conduct and ethics governing their behaviour, but should feel free to be able to express themselves within those boundaries without the fear of censure.
"It is important to acknowledge that the majority of police officers perform their duties with the utmost integrity, discretion and in accordance with the high standards of behaviour rightly expected of them by the public."