South Yorkshire police worker resigned over social media use

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A civilian worker for South Yorkshire Police resigned before misconduct proceedings after being accused of harassing an ex-partner on Facebook.

The incident was one of 13 cases in which South Yorkshire Police officers or staff were investigated for breaching police guidelines on use of social media.

The figures relate to a five year period and were released under the Freedom of Information Act.

In Derbyshire 24 officers or staff were investigated for inappropriate social media use between January 1 2009 and February 17 2014.

Nationally 828 cases of social media misuse were reported to police bosses, ranging from social media gaffes to sackable offences which threatened to bring forces into disrepute.

The study of forces around the country found officers made racist and threatening comments on Facebook and Twitter, sent friend requests to victims of crime and uploaded images of colleagues in ‘compromising positions’.

About a seventh - 14 per cent - of all investigations resulted in no further action or the personnel having no case to answer.

This compared with around a tenth of cases - nine per cent - ending in a resignation, dismissal or retirement.

According to Nottinghamshire Police, incidents of employees receiving management action included 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’.

Neil Bowles from South Yorkshire Police Federation said: “I don’t think it’s a huge problem within South Yorkshire Police.

“It seems to be a generational thing.

“Older officers using their mobiles are used to being careful about what they say and do.

“We warn our members about the dangers of using social media and those using official force accounts have special training for use of Twitter and Facebook.”

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.”