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No more Tweets for Police Officers due to raised fears by watchdog

The proliferation of social media with Northamptonshire officers' using Twitter has raised certain concerns forcing Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary to intervene - now a total of four Twitter accounts belonging to officers have been closed down due to the content of their Tweets.

Previous warnings were already made in regard to officers making mistakes on social media; however HMIC refuses to comment on the extract reasons for closing down the four accounts. Details will be released with the follow-up report in a few months' time.

Several officers have been reprimanded for their use of Twitter, such as PCSO @topshampolice - she claimed to be banned for using Twitter tweeting:

"Thank you all for following and banter over the last year - I have been instructed to cease tweeting. My apologies."

However, her force denies this. Rather she is undergoing training and is highly likely "in the relatively near future" to take up her Twitter work again.

Assistant chief constable Chris Boarland made a valid point stating: "No one is going to be banned from using social media, but there obviously need to be guidelines around it."

Out of the 45 accredited tweeters, Northamptonshire police revealed how action was taken on Tuesday to close down the accounts. Possible reasons, it is understood, for such banning of accounts by HMIC include breaches to the Data Protection Act and hindering investigative and legal aims.

Social media is a persistent topic of debate for police forces and officials, with deputy chief constable Gordon Scobbie, who incidentally speaks on behalf of the Tayside police for social media, stating:

"There is a fine balance to be struck...Social media is a positive tool if used properly and forces need to be careful about the amount of control they have. It comes down to the culture of an organisation and the degree of trust you have in your frontline officers. You have to allow them to make mistakes and deal with them as a mistake, rather than coming down heavily on them. People who make mistakes should be supported; otherwise we are in danger of looking out of touch and heavy-handed."

Currently around 1,000 officers are approve tweeters with force-accredited accounts, however many officers in fact choose to tweet under pseudonyms as it gives them more freedom.

Ultimately, the HMIC report will shed some light on the social media issue, possibly brining new guidelines into play for tweeting officers.

 

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