150 officers warned over Facebook posts

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Image caption Seven officers resigned following complaints about Facebook posts between 2008 and 2010

One police officer was sacked and more than 150 faced disciplinary action over their behaviour on Facebook in a three-year period, figures have shown.

Some used the social networking site to harass ex-partners and ex-colleagues or make comments about officers' wives.

Others suggested they had beaten up members of the public during protests.

The figures, from 41 of the 43 forces in England and Wales, were obtained by the Press Association under the Freedom of Information Act.

Racist comment

Officers were also said to have revealed operations, tried to befriend crime victims or posted inappropriate material.

One officer serving with the Hampshire force was dismissed without notice in 2009 for posting a racist comment on Facebook, the force said. No further details were made available.

The figures cover between 2008 and 2010, but a second officer was sacked earlier this year for referring to another officer as a "grass" and a "liar" on Facebook and harassing a female colleague. No further details on 2011's complaints are available.

As well as those sacked or disciplined, seven officers resigned following complaints. They were two special constables from the Dorset force, and one officer from each of Bedfordshire, Cheshire, Essex, North Wales and South Yorkshire.

Between 2008 and 2010, a total of 187 complaints were made against officers over their use of Facebook, with nine officers given final written warnings, 47 given written warnings, one given a formal warning and another fined.

Additionally, 88 were subject to management action, received guidance or words of advice, while 32 complaints were either withdrawn, found to be unsubstantiated or led to no further action.

One disciplinary outcome in Leicestershire, following comments made on Facebook, was initially withheld but the force later said the officer involved received management advice.

Roger Baker, who led a review into police corruption for Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), said: "Social networking is seen as a risk by all forces and authorities, but there are limited or inconsistent policies around what is acceptable, what you should do, what you shouldn't do.

"We found a significant blurring between people's professional lives on social networking sites and their private lives which may be in the public domain and private lives which probably should remain extremely private."

Chief Constable Mike Cunningham, of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said while officers have a right to privacy, they should be "aware of the risk they are subject to when they identify themselves as being a member of the service".

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