Social media shame: GMP top list for police officers probed over online misconduct

Greater Manchester Police officers have been investigated over allegations of breaching social media guidelines more than any in England and Wales over the last five years.

Freedom of information requests by Press Association to forces in England and Wales have revealed hundreds of police employees have been investigated for misconduct over social media sites during a five-year period.

A total of 828 cases were reported across the UK, 88 of which regarded Greater Manchester Police.

The second most investigated force was West Midlands with 74 cases, followed by the Met with 69.

Reports show that racist and threatening comments were made, friend requests sent to victims of crime, and images uploaded of officers in ‘compromising positions’.

An array of offences was reported, ranging in severity. Several forces noted investigations into comments deemed homophobic, racist or ‘religiously aggressive’.

In central London, a civilian officer posted Facebook comments about the actions of Muslims failing to observe a two-minute silence.

According to police, the language used by the officer ‘could be regarded as offensive/inappropriate’, and was ‘likely to cause offence to other persons’.

A complainant was harassed by an employee of Dyfed Powys Police, who was accused of being ‘threatening, bullying and intimidating’ through private messages on Facebook.

A sergeant with Suffolk Constabulary was reprimanded and eventually dismissed after accessing an ex-partners’ private account of Facebook.

They received a misconduct hearing regarding this and other matters prior to their dismissal.

Similarly, a civilian officer of South Yorkshire Police was accused of harassing an ex-partner over Facebook, but resigned before misconduct proceedings could take place.

In Lancashire, written warning was received over derogatory remarks about a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO), who issued the offender with a fine for dog fouling.

Inappropriate comments allegedly made concerning someone’s wife caused management action to be taken against the PC at the same force.

Employees at Nottinghamshire Police received management action for posting ‘confidential information concerning an upcoming police operation’, as well as comments regarding their ‘dissatisfaction’ at work.

Messages of ‘abusive nature’ were reportedly sent to a member of the public by a PC with Gwent Police, earning the officer a written warning.

Images uploaded also caused action to be taken by police forces.

In Lancashire an employee received counselling after sharing a photo of a colleague sleeping while on duty in the Control Room.

Final written warning was given to a PCSO at Devon and Cornwall Police after uploading photos of themselves with weapons to Facebook.

Pictures on Facebook of two special constables in a ‘compromising position’ caused them both to resign from their jobs in Northampton.

Chief Constable Alex Marshall, chief executive of the College of Policing, said: “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.”

However he went on to say that those who had been found to have undermined the force’s reputation by their online conduct, 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,” he said.

“There is no place in policing for officers who abuse the trust placed in us by the public.”

Of those investigated, 14% resulted in no further action being taken, with 9% ending in resignation, dismissal or retirement.

Only 13 forces reported ten or fewer investigations between January 2009 and February 2014.

Out of the 828 investigated, 548 were police officers, compared with 175 civilian staff.

Additionally, 31 Police Community Support Officers were also investigated.

Related Articles