The Metropolitan Police force has banned its officers from using social media apps as part of an upgrade of smartphones for police. The move aims to prevent further instances of social media misuse by police officers, which has been a growing concern. The ban applies to all social media apps, except for the messaging app WhatsApp, which can only be used by officers or staff on a restricted basis with permission sought on a case-by-case basis. The Met Police confirmed that it had provided the newly locked-down smartphones to various police teams but did not specify how many of its 30,000 serving officers have been issued with one so far.
The Met Police’s communications team will continue to use its corporate social media TikTok account, but the move marks a significant policy shift for the force, which has faced criticism over officers’ misuse of social media and WhatsApp. Last week’s Casey review highlighted issues such as gross racism, sexism, and misogyny on WhatsApp groups, including serving police officers.
Two Met Police were jailed because of sharing photos on WhatsApp
In March 2021, Wayne Couzens, serving a whole-life sentence for the kidnap, rape, and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, was part of a WhatsApp group with other serving officers described in court as being “grossly racist, sexist, and misogynistic”.
In another instance, two Met Police officers were jailed for taking and sharing photos on WhatsApp of the murder scene of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman in 2020 in a park in Wembley. The new policy is part of the Met Police’s ongoing efforts to tackle inappropriate behaviour and restore public trust. The force has been rolling out smartphones for officers over the last few months, with the ability to download apps such as maps, news, and transport apps. However, social media apps have been prohibited to prevent further instances of social media misuse.
The use of social media by police officers is a complex issue
The social media ban is a step towards more responsible use of social media by police officers, and it is hoped that it will prevent future instances of inappropriate behaviour. However, it remains to be seen how effective this new policy will be in practice.
The use of social media by police officers is a complex issue. While there is a need to prevent inappropriate behaviour, officers also need to use social media for legitimate purposes, such as for communication with the public or investigative purposes.
The Met Police’s decision to restrict the use of social media by its officers is a sign of the growing concern over the misuse of social media by those in positions of authority. Hopefully, this new policy will help prevent further instances of inappropriate behaviour and restore public trust in the police force.