PCSO 'instructed to cease tweeting'


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The Independent Online

A member of police staff who used Twitter to report details of criminal behaviour has told her followers she has been instructed to stop using the micro-blogging site.

Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) Sarah Giles said she had been told to "cease tweeting", after posting nearly 10,000 messages, often covering incidents on her patch in Devon.

The officer, who uses the handle TopshamPolice in reference to the part of Exeter she covers, wrote today: "Thank you for all your support. I was told to close the account and cease tweeting. It upset me very much and is still being discussed RT :("

Devon and Cornwall Police say the PCSO has not been banned from posting updates, but has instead been offered "training" about the content of her tweets.

PCSO Giles has more than 1,000 followers, with her tweets documenting everyday life on the beat.

She and several colleagues use social media to tell followers about fixed penalty notices handed out, as well as advising the community about petty crime and vandalism in the area.

In one tweet two weeks ago, PCSO Giles wrote: "Lots of strong coffee needed tonight :-/ follow up calls to student who threw up in taxi and victims of wing mirror bashing £exeterfreshers", the latter understood to be a reference to first-year university students in the city.

But her prolific tweeting died down on September 19, when she posted simply "bye :-)" and two days later wrote: "Thank you all for following and banter over the last year - I have been instructed to cease tweeting. My apologies."

In a statement, a police spokesman said: "Devon and Cornwall Police embraces social media and all staff's responsible use of it.

"The force's main Twitter account has more than 11,500 followers and we value it greatly as a way of communicating with communities and the wider public.

"The PCSO concerned has been given words of advice around the content of tweets, but has not been banned or stopped from tweeting.

"The force has a social media policy which gives clear guidance to all staff on what is deemed appropriate, and in this case, training will now be given to the PCSO so she can better use social media in the future as an innovative communication tool.

"There is no doubt that social media is a very quick and effective means which can have pitfalls, but we are committed to ensuring staff have the knowledge and expertise wherever possible to use it properly."