Fifth police officer ditches Twitter account

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An experienced policeman has become the fifth officer from Northamptonshire Police to ditch his Twitter account this week, following concerns raised in an HMIC inspection.

Pc Vince Bangs took the move to remove his account last night, just days after four colleagues were asked to do likewise by bosses at Wootton Hall.

The officers were highlighted in the external inspection for sending what were deemed to be ‘innappropriate messages’.

The officers, who were among more than 40 police officers and staff who have been tweeting about their jobs over the past few months, were told to leave the website because they breached force rules.

HMIC inspectors visited the force over the summer to look into how officers were using Twitter. Inspectors then gave feedback to Northamptonshire Police chiefs, who acted to remove the officers.

Pc Bangs however took the decision himself and was at no point asked to do so by police bosses.

The decision to remove the accounts has disappointed users of the social networking site, who said the presence of officers helped present a more ‘personal’ feel to the force.

Stacey Roberts said: “I follow two officers. I hope they don’t stop. I love hearing what they up to and how they are keeping us all safe.”

Ted Smith said: “What are Northants police trying to do? It’s the 21st century, social media is everywhere. Why stop officers tweeting?”

Vanessa Kimbell added: “Sad. I was getting a real sense of what the police really have to face each day not just PR and spin.”

Northamptonshire Police released a statement earlier this week explaining why the first four officers were asked to remove their accounts.

A force spokesman said: “We expect the highest standards from our officers and staff at all times and this is reflected in procedures regarding the use of social media across the force.

“This may be with regard to data protection, appropriateness of message and for investigative or legal reasons. We monitor the use of social media and at times it is necessary to ask for messages to be removed, adapted or indeed for an account to be closed.

“The force has in the region of 40 officers and staff tweeting and remains committed to engaging with communities in many ways including Facebook and Twitter.”

The exact reasons why the offciers were effectively ‘gagged’ - and the offending tweets themselves - have not been released.

However, one officer claimed it related to a tweet sent while out with his children a year ago when he was using Twitter for a personal account, rather than in a professional capacity.

A spokesman for HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) explained the summer visit came after the publication of a report in December 2011 into how police across the country deal with the media.

The spokesperson said: “In Without fear or favour (December 2011) we said that we intended to revisit the matters highlighted in this report. We are currently in the process of carrying out this follow up inspection.

“As part of this process we provide feedback - we have highlighted some issues to the force and we understand they have taken action.

“We haven’t yet made any recommendations in relation to this follow up inspection.”

Adam Simmonds, the Conservative candidate in the forthcoming Police and Crime Commissioner elections, tweeted this morning: “Sad to see Northants PCs closing accounts. Operational concerns paramount, but common sense should prevail for PCs to connect to communities.”