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Exclusive: Six sacked at Met Police for 'offensive' social media use

11 Apr 2013
Metropolitan Police officer on the streets of London

Six members of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), including three serving officers, have been sacked for posting "offensive" and "intimidating" content on social media sites, according to data gathered by V3.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request to the Met Police showed that 75 complaints were registered against officers for social media use between 2010 and 2013, on sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

This led to 38 police officers being disciplined. Of these 38 incidents, six led to ‘management action’, defined as providing feedback to officers over why their conduct fell short, while one case ended with a written warning. Six resigned ahead of any formal actions.

The remaining 25 complaints resulted in formal actions against officers. Of these, three led to dismissals, five were management actions, and 17 led to written warnings.

The other three dismissals were taken against regular members of back office staff, while one resigned pending an investigation.

Directorate of Professional Standards at the Met, commander Allan Gibson, told V3 the Met takes all accusations made against staff seriously in order to ensure its officers meet a high standard of conduct.

"Any allegations of inappropriate behaviour, including that on social media or internet sites, will be investigated thoroughly and dealt with appropriately," he said.

Although specifics on the cases that led to dismissals were not available due to data protection legislation, Allan gave some indication of the gravity of the incidents.

"Over the past five years we have found seven cases where a member of staff has fallen well below the standards expected by the Met. As a result they were dismissed from the service," he said.

"These cases were extremely serious including the use of offensive, intimidating content which is simply unacceptable."

Despite the issues social media has caused, the Met has an active Twitter presence, with numerous officers and inspectors maintaining their own accounts and the Met's official page now boasts over 100,000 followers as it uses the service to interact with the public.

"These serious cases are relatively rare and we remain vigilant. We will continue to support and train our staff to ensure they are fully aware of our policies on social media use," added Allan.

The information comes to light after revelations three Home Office staff were sacked for social media abuses on sites such as Myspace and Bebo, underlining the perils of unfettered social media access and a lack of policies in place.

The revelations come in the same week Britain's first youth crime commissioner resigned over posts she had made several years earlier on Twitter.

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

View Dan's Google+ profile

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