Police warned of social networking dangers

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POLICE OFFICERS have been warned to avoid identifying themselves as law enforcers on social networks in case criminals try to befriend them.

The warning comes as two Lothian and Borders police officers were disciplined for posting incident information on their Facebook pages.

And thanks to the blunder, police chiefs at the force have now issued a leaflet to all staff warning them about social networking dos and dont’s.

The guides warns police officials not to compromise investigations by posting relevant information on Facebook, Twitter or any other site.

The force would not disclose the nature of the information posted on the sites by the two officers.

Councillor Iain Whyte, convenor of the police board, said: “The board are very supportive of this guide. Police officers have to be concerned about information getting out into the public domain and what they say about their work.

“People are often more open on social media than they would be in the course of their normal lives. Officers need to exercise the same caution as they would if they were speaking in public.

“Officers have very sensitive jobs and they have to be very aware of that.”

And police have now been told that they cannot use the Lothian and Borders logo on their personal profiles, or identify themselves as working for the force.

It adds that officers should not “discuss your work in anything more than general terms i.e. ‘I had a good day at work.’”

Posting police emails on personal sites is also prohibited and photographs of themselves in uniform is banned along with pictures of “any item” which can identify the user as an officer.

As well as the rules on social networking, the guide features advice on blogs, citing that they should “always be respectful of Lothian and Borders Police, other employees and members of the public.”

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It adds: “You should never, under any circumstances, disclose any operational information on the internet or social networking sites.”

A police spokesman said: “Lothian and Borders Police can confirm that a guidance leaflet on safe and appropriate use of social networking was issued to staff.

“The leaflet offers advice to officers on personal safety as well as highlighting their obligations in relation to ensuring the high standards of the force are maintained.

“This initiative is not unique to Lothian and Borders Police and has been instigating by officers who have sought and indeed welcomed guidance on the issue of social networking.

“Lothian and Borders Police is an advocate of social network sites as demonstrated by our use of Facebook and Twitter to interact with the community. The leaflet aims to support this view whilst protecting employees.”

 

 

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