Police on twitter

GMPolice gloating about sentences

The tweet above is from Greater Manchester Police, tweeting as @gmpolice. It reads “Mum-of-two, not involved in disorder, jailed for FIVE months for accepting shorts looted from shop. There are no excuses!

My problems with this are:

  • The sentence is disproportionate (Although that is a problem with the judge, not the police.)
  • The tweet shows enthusiasm, maybe even glee, over the length of the sentence. Particaularly with the emphasis of “FIVE months” and “There are no excuses!” It is not the place of the police to comment on, recommend or celebrate the length of a sentence or the defence used in court.

On social media it is a good thing to comment, converse and give opinion. This builds community, which is why it is called social media. In the case of the police, however, they should remain detached and professional when it comes to presenting information to the public – just as in any other time they interact with the public. We expect our police forces to be unbiased and therefore accurate in their administration of justice, and adding personal opinion to the information presented on social networks gives the impression of a bias of the whole police force, whether that represents their general opinion or not. It would have been more appropriate to tweet something like

Mum-of-two, not involved in disorder, jailed for 5 months for accepting shorts looted from shop. Judges issuing tough sentences over riots.

This would have conveyed the information to the public without adding emphasis, but while still warning of tough sentences in order to provide a deterrent.

Overall, I have been told that @gmpolice are making good use of social media. Perhaps the people (yes, real people with opinions and lives) behind the twitter account are overworked and tired, especially after a week of rioting and looting. And we can all make mistakes. However, they must step back and examine what is professional and appropriate for them to say on twitter. Revelling, or appearing to revel, in a long and harsh sentence is not appropriate for the people that are supposed to uphold the law. Their job is to find the criminals and present them to the court, not to gloat.

—-Addendum—

@GMPolice published this message within an hour of the one mentioned above.

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