Porn and gambling block for Devon and Cornwall Police

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Devon and Cornwall Police officers and staff were blocked from pornographic and gambling websites more than 2,700 times in three months.

A BBC investigation has found the force's computer systems prevented access to pornography nearly 700 times and gambling sites more than 2,000 times between June and August 2013.

No disciplinary action has been taken against any employee in this period.

The force said pop-up adverts on "legitimate" sites were to blame.

Start Quote

I'm confident I don't have dozens of staff routinely accessing gambling or pornographic websites in work time and on force computers ”

End Quote David Zinzan Deputy Chief Constable

The figures, released under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, relate to the number of unique users prevented from accessing a site or section of a site, and relate to staff, police officers and agency staff contracted by the force.

Deputy Chief Constable David Zinzan said: "The software we use to monitor internet usage is a commercial application that uses finely-tuned filters.

"The software blocks and prevents access to websites which are suspected to have inappropriate content, such as gambling or pornography."

The force said the category "pornography" covered "all sites found by the filter to contain adult content" which includes "sites containing profanity or dating websites".

Local newspaper websites

It added: "Any site that the filter identifies as containing information only suitable for adult viewing would be included in this category."

Mr Zinzan said: "We have many recorded blocks from local newspaper websites because they have pop-up adverts that breach our 'gambling' or 'pornography' rule.

"These online news sites allow betting or dating adverts and pop-ups which our software blocks and records as attempts to access gambling or pornography.

"So 500 users who legitimately access these news sites could easily generate 500 reports."

He said the force filters were "very robust and will capture hundreds of these events" which were called "false positives".

"I am advised that the vast majority of those FoI figures relate to such instances," he added.

'Small number disciplined'

A blocked site is one that is not compliant with the force policy on accessing the internet.

Denied access per month

PORNOGRAPHY

  • June 2013 - 187
  • July 2013 - 214
  • August 2013 - 273

GAMBLING

  • June 2013 - 643
  • July 2013 - 845
  • August 2013 - 605

Mr Zinzan said the force had "very strict internet security policies".

"I'm confident I don't have dozens of staff routinely accessing gambling or pornographic websites in work time and on force computers.

"Almost all staff know better than to compromise themselves which could lead to disciplinary action."

He said an "extremely small number of people" have been disciplined in the last few years, and with a workforce of nearly 6,000, he said it was "a tiny percentage".

Mr Zinzan said: "If continuous attempts are made to access blocked websites we have the systems in place to 'dig deeper' if required, though that's rarely necessary and at this moment in time there are no current ongoing investigations around genuine inappropriate internet access."

He added it was important the figures were put in context otherwise people could "reasonably conclude that there is a problem when in fact there isn't".

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