Complaints, Discipline and Social Media – How Big Is The Problem?

There have been a few high-profile cases recently of officers falling foul of their Force Policies on Social Media and incurring the displeasure of PSD/DPS.  The ones that come most readily to mind are Newquay Sarge, Gary Watts, James Patrick and Tony Ryan, although in the case of the last all does not appear to be clear, RYAN was sacked by his Force for being @TheBritishCop, but he maintains it wasn’t him and that the wrong person has been sacked.

So I thought I would try to find out just how big a problem Social Media was in the world of Policing.

I sent the following Freedom of Information request to 7 jForces, of varying sizes and nature;

 

Can you please tell me, for the year 1st April 2013 to 31st March
2014, what percentage of your total Complaints or Internal
Misconduct proceedings related to the usage/misuse or abuse of
Social Media including, but not limited to, Twitter, Facebook,
Snapchat and Instagram?

Of these, how many resulted in the ‘accused’ person being dismissed
or required to resign?

Some Forces had problems working out the percentages and could only tell me total numbers and left me to work out percentages myself.  No problem, I can do that, even if they can’t (or maybe won’t).

The first to reply was South Yorkshire Police; the response to both questions was NIL.

Next came West Mercia, who provided as much information as I had hoped and asked for, just couldn’t work out the percentages.

For the year 1st April 2013 to 31st March 2014,
1. How many complaints and Internal Misconduct proceedings did you have.

REPLY:
Complaint cases – 546
Conduct cases – 91

2.How many of these Complaints or Internal Misconduct proceedings related
to the usage/misuse or abuse of Social Media including, but not limited
to, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram?

REPLY:
Complaint cases – 2  (0.4%)
Conduct cases – 7 (7.7%)

3. Of these, how many resulted in the ‘accused’ person being dismissed or
required to resign?

REPLY:
Complaint cases – 0 (0%)
Conduct cases – 1 (14.3%)

 

So, out of 637 Discipline and Misconduct matters only 9 in total involved the use and abuse of Social Media, and only one of those was bad enough to warrant Dismissal as a result.

Third to respond was amazingly Devon and Cornwall, home of Newquay Sarge and Gary Watts.  I expected them to find a reason not to respond to be honest, but respond they did, giving me all the information I asked for, although they don’t do percentages either.

They decided to refer me to an HMIC document showing that they had 359 Complaints per 1,000 employees in the year in question, a figure which I find astoundingly high, and way above the National Average (251) apparently. Last time I looked Devon and Cornwall had 3,096 Police Officers, 1,516 Police Staff, and 382 PCSOs.  Now I make that a total of 4,994, but I’ll call that 5,000. So that means that they presumably recorded 359×5,000=1,793 Complaints.

Additionally there were 28 Misconduct  matters during that time.

3 out of the 1,793 (0.15%) Complaints related to Social Media, and 1 out of the 28 (3.6%) Misconduct Matters

NONE of these 4 cases resulted in a Dismissal or a Required to Resign Finding.

Next to respond was Greater Manchester Police.  They reported a total of 2,155 Complaints or Disciplinary matters in the relevant time-scale.  Of these 22 (1%) were in relation to use and abuse of Social Media or Networking sites.  None of the 22 Complaints above resulted in a Dismissal or the officer being Required to Resign.

Next to weigh in with their response was Dorset, who gave me a very brief response, but told me all that I wanted to know.  0.2% of their Complaints and Discipline matters had related to the use or abuse of Social Media and NONE had resulted in an officer being dismissed or Required To Resign.

Dyfed Powys informed me that Use or Abuse of Social Media had taken up 3 out of 36 (8.3%) of Internal Conduct Matters and 2 out of 579 (0.35%) of Complaints.  Once again, no officers had been dismissed or Required to Resign during that period for abusing Social Media.

Unsurprisingly the Met were absolutely last to reply, granting themselves a unilateral extension on the time limits that are proscribed by law, but while I’m waiting they have sent me some interesting figures from previous years.

This table will show police officers who have been the subject of a conduct matter allegation involving misuse of social networking, by year and by rank.

Financial Year

Allegation Category

DC

INS

PC

PS

MSC

Total

10/11

Oppressive Behaviour

 

 

  3

 

  1

  4

 

Discrimination

 

 

  1

  1

  1

  3

 

Failures in Duty

  1

 

  5

  1

 

  7

 

Incivility

 

 

  1

 

 

  1

 

Other

 

 

  1

 

 

  1

10/11 Total

 

  1

 

 11

  2

  2

 16

11/12

Oppressive Behaviour

 

 

  2

 

 

  2

 

Failures in Duty

  1

  1

  7

  1

 

 10

 

Incivility

 

 

  8

 

 

  8

 

Other

 

 

  5

 

 

  5

11/12 Total

 

  1

  1

 22

  1

 

 25

12/13

Oppressive Behaviour

 

 

  2

 

  2

  4

 

Failures in Duty

 

 

  3

 

  3

  6

 

Incivility

 

 

  3

 

  1

  4

 

Other

 

 

  3

 

  2

  5

12/13 Total

 

 

 

 11

 

  8

 19

Grand Total

 

  2

  1

 44

  3

 10

 60

The following table will show the outcome of the 60 conduct matter allegations relating to misuse of social networking.

Write Off Result

 Write Off Method

10/11

11/12

12/13

Grand Total

Substantiated

Meeting/Hearing

7

10

2

19

 

Management Action

1

1

1

3

 

No Action

0

0

1

1

 

Retired/Resigned

 

3

2

5

Substantiated Total

8

14

6

28

Discontinuance / Not Informed

2

1

1

4

Unsubstantiated

6

9

7

22

Ongoing

 

1

5

6

Grand Total

16

25

19

60

 

The following table will show the outcome of the 19 police officers/special constables where the allegation was substantiated and they then attended a Meeting/Hearing. The allegations against the 19 officers were proven.

Outcome

10/11

11/12

12/13

Grand Total

Dismissal Without Notice

2

 

 

2

Final Written Warning

 

2

 

2

First Written Warning

4

4

2

10

Management Advice

1

4

 

5

Grand Total

7

10

2

19

 

The following table will show Police Staff who have been the subject of a conduct matter allegation involving misuse of social networking, by year and by grade. These cases all concluded in the financial year recorded and none are pending disciplinary investigation or action.

Proceedings concluded 2010/11 financial year: three cases (relating to three individuals)

Band

Type of Social Media

Reason for Action

Case Result

Sanction

Band E

Social media type not specified.

Misconduct –

Discreditable Conduct.

Allegation substantiated.

Final Written Warning With Management Action.

PCSO

Facebook.

Gross Misconduct –

Duties and Responsibilities.

Allegation substantiated.

Dismiss Without Notice.

PCSO

Facebook.

Gross Misconduct –

Discreditable Conduct.

Allegation substantiated.

Formal Reprimand.

Proceedings concluded 2011/12 financial year: four cases (relating to four individuals)

Band

Type of Social Media

Reason for Action

Case Result

Sanction

PCSO

Social media type not specified.

Misconduct –

Discreditable Conduct.

Allegation substantiated.

Apply or Reinstate Stage Two Warning.

PCSO

Facebook.

Misconduct –

Discreditable Conduct.

Allegation substantiated.

Final Written Warning With Management Action.

Band E

Social media type not specified.

Misconduct –

Discreditable Conduct.

Allegation substantiated.

Final Written Warning With Management Action.

Band E

Twitter.

Misconduct –

Discreditable Conduct.

Allegation substantiated.

First Written Warning.

Proceedings concluded 2012/13 financial year: two cases (relating to two individuals)

Type of Social Media

Reason for Action

Case Result

Sanction

Facebook.

Gross Misconduct –

Honesty and Integrity.

Allegation substantiated.

Dismiss Without Notice.

Facebook.

Misconduct –

Duties and Responsibilities.

Allegation substantiated.

Final Written Warning With Management Action.

The following table will show officers and police staff who are subject of a public complaint allegation involving misuse of social networking, by year and by rank. The category of police staff will include Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs)

 

Staff Type/Rank

F Year

Alleg Category

Other

Police

Staff

DC

PC

MSC

(SPECIAL)

Total

10/11

Failures in Duty

 

 

2

 

2

10/11 Total

 

 

 

2

 

2

11/12

Incivility

 

 

1

 

1

 

Other

1

 

 

 

1

11/12 Total

 

1

 

1

 

2

12/13

Oppressive Behaviour

 

 

2

 

2

 

Incivility

1

1

1

1

4

 

Other

 

 

1

 

1

12/13 Total

 

1

1

4

1

7

Grand Total

 

2

1

7

1

11

The following table will show the outcome of the 2 public complaint allegations against police staff, relating to misuse of social networking .

Write Off Result

 Write Off Method

10/11

11/12

12/13

Grand Total

Case to Answer

Meeting/Hearing

 

1

 

1

Local Resolution

Management Action

 

 

1

1

Grand Total

 

 

1

1

2

The following table will show the outcome of the 9 public complaint allegations against police officers, relating to misuse of social networking .

Write Off Result

 Write Off Method

10/11

11/12

12/13

Grand Total

Case to Answer

Management Action

 

 

1

1

Local Resolution

No Action

1

1

 

2

No Case to Answer

No Action

1

 

5

6

Grand Total

 

2

1

6

9

k

So, while we are waiting, it seems that none of the officers were subject of complaints made by a member of the public, and not very many needed to be sacked.

Well, they eventually replied by way of giving me 6 tables for 2013/14;

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So there, my faithful reader, we have it. Hardly a major problem in the greater scheme of things, and not too many, hardly any at all really, sacked for Twatting or Farcebooking. The number of complaints initiated by members of the Public almost nil, I suppose we should not be surprised that the Met leads the way. They are by far the biggest Force, and they have recently highlighted their attitude to Social Media quite unequivocally.

Two or three of our friends have suffered grievously at the hands of an over-exuberant Professional Standards Dept. The stats don’t seem to support their paranoia. It doesn’t seem to be the problem it was made out to be. But let’s be careful out there just the same.

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