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Sunday, 26 October 2014

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Cumbria police staff’s use of social media probed

Cumbria's police force launched 17 investigations into the conduct of its officers and staff over their relationships with outside parties over an eight month period.

Bernard Lawson photo
Bernard Lawson

Among these were four cases of “potentially inappropriate behaviour” on Facebook or Twitter by people employed by the county constabulary.

These four, a report states, were “referred back to the constabulary” and led to the people involved “receiving advice” from supervisors.

Another of the inquiries, all launched between September 2011 and May 2012, involved an alleged “inappropriate disclosure to the media” by an officer from west Cumbria. It resulted in management action.

They were revealed after publication of a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), which, overall, says the force has improved how it “identifies, monitors and manages integrity issues”.

Bernard Lawson, Cumbria’s temporary chief constable, said the force welcomed the report, saying it highlighted “the steps we have taken to ensure that integrity remains at the heart of everything we do”.

He added: “The vast majority of police officers and staff act with honesty and integrity and deliver a very high standard of policing to the communities of Cumbria.”

The report followed an inquiry across the country into “instances of undue influence, inappropriate contractual arrangements and other abuses of power in police relationships with the media and other parties”.

This was ordered by Home Secretary Theresa May in 2011 after the phone-hacking scandal. Inspections were carried out and nationally Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found no evidence that corruption was endemic. This year all forces were revisited. The report reveals other findings about Cumbria Constabulary, including:

The force has updated or is reviewing several policies, including those covering relationships with the media, acceptance of gifts and hospitality, social media use and police having second jobs.

Between September 2011 and May 2012 the force investigated one instance of “inappropriate disclosure to the media”.

The constabulary has produced a policy and provided guidance on how officers and staff should behave on social networking sites.

Roger Baker, HM Inspector of Constabulary for the north, said: “Cumbria Constabulary has made some improvements to how it identifies, monitors and manages integrity issues since HMIC last reviewed this in 2011.”

Mr Lawson added: “When officers or staff fail to meet the high standards we require they risk damaging the high level of trust we share with the public, partner agencies and each other, so we treat these rare instances very seriously. We have followed national guidelines and strengthened some of our policies to ensure staff and officers have the right support and guidance they need.”

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