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This Is Why Police Should Be Careful When Joking On Twitter

Merseyside police apologised on Sunday for a making a joke about rape allegations – but this isn't the first time law enforcement have got it wrong on Twitter.

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In the exchange, now deleted, the police account was responding to a fan's joke about Everton's 6-2 victory at home against Sunderland on Sunday.

In a separate exchange, also deleted, another fan said "Chelsea get raped every match, can you help?" to which @MerseyPolice said "Afraid not, it's not a criminal offence to lose week in week out".

The force tweeted a three-part apology for the "inappropriate tweets" and said an investigation would be launched.

We would like to apologise for any offence caused by inappropriate tweets from the force account this afternoon. They do not reflect (1/3)

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Social media is now a key part of policing, with appeals for witnesses via Facebook and Twitter now an everyday tactic – which often results in arrests.

There are also a growing number of arrests and convictions as a result of video footage of wrongdoing going viral online.

But this is hardly the first time police have got it wrong when it comes to social media.

As several people pointed out, families who really are searching for missing people may not get the joke.

@GMPCityCentre im sure the family's of real missing people don't appreciate your 'humour' DS Dave, #thinkb4tweeting https://t.co/STCOcF10hq

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The force said in a statement that the couple were not homeless, but added: "This was clearly an inappropriate tweet which we immediately removed from our Twitter account, and we are looking into the circumstances as to why it has been posted.

"Regardless of any offences people have committed they still deserve their human dignity and we would apologise for the offence this has caused."

The force deleted the tweet and said: "Apologies for any offence caused from last tweet. Comment was not directed at individual person. Thanks to all for feedback messages – all your comments have been noted. You are right, it is not our place to comment on sentences."

Patrick Smith is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Patrick Smith at patrick.smith@buzzfeed.com.

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