1. Avon and Somerset Police has sacked a police officer for sending what it claims were degrading tweets describing fellow officers as “scum” via the @TheBritishCop Twitter account.
Ryan, 33, a constable of ten years’ service, based near Bristol, was dismissed for gross misconduct after an internal investigation ruled that he sent tweets comparing colleagues to “scum” and saying they were “lower than slime”. However, he disputes that he had anything to do with the account and is appealing.
Avon and Somerset’s Professional Standards Department (PSD) ruled that Ryan was, on the balance of probabilities, guilty of “persistent undermining through social media of the leadership and function of Avon and Somerset Constabulary, so as to undermine confidence in the police.”
2. Chief Inspector Kevin Rowlands, who sat on the disciplanary panel, said in an emailed statement that the force actively encourages staff to use social media, but to do so ethically.
Our attention was drawn to inappropriate and offensive comments being made on social media between March and October last year, which were suspected to have been posted by a serving police officer.
Following an internal investigation, a misconduct hearing was held. As a result on Tuesday, the officer was dismissed. We actively encourage staff to use our official Twitter and Facebook accounts to inform and engage with their local communities.
We expect all employees who use social media – whether in work or away from work - to adhere to the new College of Policing’s Code of Ethics, which aims to ensure staff maintain integrity and the highest standards of behaviour.
3. Ryan maintains that despite being active on Twitter, the offending account is not his and he says he will take his case to the Police Appeal Tribunal:
My reaction is simply disbelief. @TheBritishCop on Twitter has allowed them to hang me out to dry. Whoever they are can do what they like and get away with it, because I am their scapegoat.
I am, and always have been, 100 per cent innocent of this garbage and tried to conduct myself with dignity through the whole process.
4. The tweets were highly critical of the force’s treatment of its officers, accusing it of “treating hard-working staff like garbage”.
5. Ryan claims, however, that he was in a different place to the location some of the tweets were sent from. For example, he claims to have never been to Exeter - the place from which this tweet was sent.
Another tweet was sent from Paris - Ryan says he’s never been there either - where a tweet was sent from the account on Christmas Day.
Ryan claims he is the victim of a “witch-hunt” and says that any similarities between things @TheBritishCop tweeted and his professional life were coincidental. “Police officers do a lot of the same sort of work and share many of the same views, wherever they work in the country,” he says.
Whoever does run @TheBritishCop account at one point tweeted that he or she was not an officer in the Avon and Somerset force.
6. How police deal with their officers’ use of social media is a growing problem. In February West Midlands Police suspended (and quickly reinstated) the @MentalHealthCop account.
The account, run by award-winning blogger, Inspector Michael Brown, was taken down after he appeared to highlight a lack of resources – but the decision to remove him was hugely unpopular and within days he was back online and tweeting.