By Kirsty Topping
A PIONEERING plan to get police officers using Twitter has been branded a flop.
Tayside police set up a trial to have officers “tweet on the beat” about their daily activities.
But just one officer from the original trail is still tweeting, despite the force announcing that they want all of their community police to be using Twitter within months.
Seven community officers around Perth were dubbed “pioneers” by Deputy Chief Constable Gordon Scobbie, himself an avid tweeter, when they began using the site as part of a plan to keep the public more in touch with the police.
But following the three month trial, which finished in March, nearly every officer has turned their back on social media, preferring old-fashioned policing.
Only PC Euan Mitchell from Bridge of Earn has posted anything in the intervening six months.
While Gordon Scobbie posts around a dozen tweets every day other officers did not take to the site as enthusiastically.
One of the “pioneers”, PC Brian Easton, has posted just 12 tweets since January.
Subjects included his views on the snow that blanketed the country earlier this year and how well Arsenal had played.
However Tayside police have deemed the trial a success despite the low number of postings.
Sarah Craig, Head of Digital Media and Communications, said: “Some of the community officers were told to post less to see how the public responded to that.
“We feel the trial was a success.
“In addition to the force’s corporate Twitter account, we now have 25 officers of every rank across the force tweeting about their role on a regular basis.
“That number is set to rise within four to six weeks as we bring community officers from across the force on-board the digital bus.”
But moves to get all community officers on the site have been slammed by critics.
Matthew Elliot, Chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliancesaid: “Police officers’ priorities should be combating crime and protecting the public, not tweeting what is happenting as they walk the beat.
“Social media has a role to play in modern policing but officers’ time shouldn’t be distracted by the constant need to tweet.
“With budgets tight, senior officers should be concentrating on delivering what the public want, not on a communication method that will only reach a tiny minority of the public.”
The Scottish Police Federation has also warned Tayside police that officersmay not want to tweet.
Chairman Les Gray said: “Officers will be wary of being asked to tweet updates.
“Every word they post will be analysed and the officers will be held to account if they say something wrong.
“They could be in danger of posting something that brings their force into disrepute and has implications for their career.
“A lot of people fail to grasp that once you say something on sites like this, a record will last forever.
“Many officers may feel is simply isn’t worth it.”