The Metropolitan Police has sacked seven staff since 2009 for misuse of social media sites, with another eight leaving the force after facing complaints.
It has been revealed that a total of 38 police officers had been found to have misused social media sites over a four year period between 2009 and 2012, and that 12 civilian staff have also been found to have misused social media up to early 2013.
A Freedom of Information request was made into disciplinary procedures brought against officers and civilian staff under the Metropolitan Police’s social media policy.
The request was made by UK think tank Parliament Street and was complied with by the Met. The Met revealed that since 2009 three police officers and four civilian staff were sacked.
An additional six police officers and two staff retired or resigned after facing complaints about their use of social media sites. Investigations were carried out in relation to alleged computer misuse, inappropriate comments, inappropriate behaviour, and the wrongful disclosure of information.
Where staff and officers were not sacked as a result of investigations which led to charges being upheld, staff and officers were either given reprimands, management advice, formal warnings, first written warnings or final written warnings.
The vast majority of cases involved the misuse of Facebook, although two cases involved Twitter, and single cases involved LinkedIn, YouTube and Friends Re-united. In a number of other cases the social media platform was unspecified.
Steven George-Hilley, director of technology at Parliament Street, said: “Whilst social media can play a vital role in tackling crime, misuse of sites like Twitter and Facebook by employees can jeopardise the integrity of the police. It’s vital that the Met ensures all employees are trained to use social media responsibly.”
In its disclosure to Parliament Street the Met said: "All police officers and police staff are expected to adhere to the Met's Information Code of Conduct which sets out the policy on the use of information and information communication and technology systems.
"The Met's Directorate of Information issues regular reminders to staff on the importance of ensuring they comply with this policy plus other relevant legislation such as the Data Protection Act."
The Met added that “personal use of the internet is permitted up to the point where it impacts on an individual's ability to deliver their official or contracted duties".