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Gardaí investigated for behaviour on personal social media accounts

The investigations come on foot of a new internal policy on personal social media use.

Updated 10.40pm

USE OF SOCIAL networks such as Facebook and Twitter has led to a “small number” of Gardaí facing internal investigation.

It is understood that the investigations come on foot of a recently finalised internal Garda Síochána policy on how members should conduct themselves online.

Responding to enquiries from TheJournal.ie, a Garda spokesperson confirmed:

As part of the Social Media Policy of An Garda Síochána, members of staff are advised and expected to consider any impact on the organisation, its reputation and values, when engaging in social media activity.
They are also expected to be compliant with legal obligations.
A small number of staff have faced disciplinary procedures in relation to their use of social media.

The spokesperson declined to give details on the exact number of members or type of activity involved.

However, the disciplinary procedures are a further indication of a force evolving in its understanding of the advantages and pitfalls of social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

This poster, located inside a Garda station, confirms the existence of Garda Directive 27/2014 – the force’s Staff Policy on the Use of Social Media:

gardasocialmedia Source: TheJournal.ie

Members of the force are warned not to identify themselves or colleagues as Gardaí, not to compromise their own or others’ safety, and not to jeopardise the “corporate image and reputation of An Garda Síochána.”

Explaining why a Garda might be disciplined for posts or comments on social media, a spokesperson told TheJournal.ie:

Any action taken must comply with the fundamental principles of legality, necessity, proportionality and accountability and applied in a non-discriminatory manner in accordance with the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Separately, it is understood that two Gardaí are currently under investigation by GSOC, for their conduct on social media.

‘We need to alert them to the dangers’

The new official policy comes after years of concern within senior ranks about the potential dangers of individual members using their personal Facebook an Twitter accounts.

Then Chief Superintendent Brendan Cloonan initiated a force-wide review of social media use three years ago, which specifically consulted the views of junior members, in light of their age profile.

In a March 2011 interview, Cloonan told the Garda Review magazine:

The central issue [is] that some of our members are inappropriately saying things on [social networks] in relation to An Garda Síochána and their duties.
We need to alert them to the dangers of this and the possible consequences.

As an organisation, the Garda Síochána has made strides recently in its use of social media as a tool for outreach and spreading important information.

The @GardaTraffic Twitter was set up in May 2011, and was followed in 2013 by the @GardaInfo account.

Along with the Garda Síochána Facebook page, the accounts have become an important part of the force’s community engagement strategy.

They offer an almost constant stream of notices about traffic disruption, anti-speeding enforcement and lost property, as well as urgent alerts about missing persons.

The force has also earned plaudits for showing the “human face” of everyday policing In Ireland, as well as demonstrating a sense of humour and self-awareness in its interactions with the public.

First published 7am

Read: The very best of the Garda Traffic Twitter account>

‘How much do you trust An Garda Síochána?’ – Gardaí to start polling the public again>

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Dan MacGuill

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