West Midlands Police rejects concerns about censorship of social media

West Midlands Police has rejected concerns reported by The Times about censorship of social media claiming it is one of the "most open and transparent" police forces.

Police: concerns raised about social media policy
Police: concerns raised about social media policy

Last week the force suspended the Twitter account of a response officer, Inspector Michael Brown, who used social media to try to raise awareness of mental health issues.

The Times ran a story today referring to the force’s social media policy claiming it requires all its officers to hand over their social media passwords.

Speaking to PRWeek, West Midlands Police head of corporate communications Dan Barton said the policy was not a response to the recent case and had been in place for around two years.

He said corporate social media accounts were set up and adminstered by the corporate communications department but it was not the case that officers had to hand over passwords for accounts set up independently.

Officers are advised to register for a corporate social media account if they plan to use social media to discuss their work.

"Accounts are set up here in the first place," he said. "From time to time we check stuff but there are about 230 accounts and we have suspended four accounts in two years, and two of those were reinstated, so it rarely happens."

He did not comment on the case of Brown, who is understood to have had a corporate account, but said reasons accounts might be suspended were normally to do with "common sense" such as if evidence had been tweeted.

"It’s not about stopping people commenting," he said. "We are one of the most open and transparent forces.

"It’s hard for PR people to keep control of the message, and if we allow individuals to use social media we do lose control but we build trust and confidence in West Midlands Police and look like real people. I’m fully behind that approach because you gain so much."

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