Employment Issues / Social Media

Arresting statistics – when should social media misconduct result in dismissal?

IMG_5992Recent reports that officers and civilians working for our Police services have been dismissed or ‘invited to resign’ make for shocking reading.  What we have not been told, however, is what levels of misconduct have resulted in the termination of their employment.

By way of example, in one force alone, a total of 828 resported cases of misconduct led to 46 investigations in the past five years.  These have subsequently resulted in two members of staff resigning as a direct consequence of their conduct falling below the standards expected of them.  A further ten are reported to have either received a written warning or ‘advice’ from their managers following an investigation.

The statistics have come from a Freedom of Information request by the Press Association.  Some examples of misconduct have been released, including the making of racist and threatening comments online, ‘friend’ requests to victims of crime and the uploaing of images of Police colleagues in “compromising positions”.

Although these figures have the potential to cause embarassment to ny organisation, they actually go to show how seriously and carefully social media misconduct is viewed by the emergency services.  With each report being investigated by the Professional Standards Department, there is a serious threat that, if someone is found to have breached the standards expected of them they should expect to be penalised.

Although only 2 left the force and 10 were given other disciplinary sanctions, anyone found in breach of the policy was given advice about how to ensure that their personal conduct meets their employers high standards. Police personnel are assessed against the national Code of Ethics, which provides clear guidance on the use of social media and networking sites.  It seems, at least in the force discussed here, that action is being taken to ensure that employees act in a way which is properly representative of the authority they work with.

Of course, it is not only the Police who are expected to work to high ethical and operational standards.  The integrity of a organisation, company or brand is often represented by its workforce.  By implementing policies that reflect those standards, educating employees on them and enforcing them wherever and whenever necessary, it won’t take too long to have employees who not only act appropriately, but are in a position to correct those whose conduct is not up to the required standard.

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