The Twitter account of a police inspector who has won awards for his mental-health work is being investigated for alleged misuse.
In a statement, West Midlands Police said that Inspector Michael Brown’s account was suspended on Friday while “certain aspects of the officer's communications are being investigated,” adding “as such it would be inappropriate for the account to continue whilst further enquiries are made.”
His @MentalHealthCop Twitter account has since disappeared from the social media website.
While not describing what had triggered the investigation, assistant chief constable Garry Forsyth said he could not imagine any organisation that would want employees to use official social media accounts “to be openly critical of it [their employer] – or indeed allow it”.
In 2012, Mr Brown won a Mind digital media award from the mental health charity, in recognition of his popular Mental Health Cop blog, which offers advice to officers on how to deal with people with mental health problems.
On Mr Brown's blog, he describes himself as a: “Police inspector, visiting lecturer and author of the MentalHealthCop blog” adding he has “a particular interest in policing and mental health and have been formally commended by the chief constable for my work at a local, regional and national level. I gave expert evidence to the Independent Commission on Policing and Mental Health in 2013.”
Following the suspension, West Midlands police and crime commissioner Bob Jones said he would raise the issue with the force’s chief constable Chris Sims, adding that all investigations are treated equally regardless of the person’s public profile.
Mr Jones Tweeted: “always thought Michael's tweets really good news and have often retweeted. Will raise with chief constable.”
West Midlands police said: “As a force, the corporate communications department monitors all corporate use and should any inappropriate or operationally sensitive communication be identified, this will be taken up with the individual."
It added: "In serious cases, the matter would be referred to the force's professional standards department.
"Any breaches of force policy are taken extremely seriously and will be thoroughly and professionally investigated."
Mr Forsyth, who is responsible for the force's local policing and service improvement, said: "Our policy is intended to enable officers and staff to communicate with our communities effectively to offer an insight into our work.
"It does impose some restrictions but we are, of course, an organisation that holds sensitive information so we have to ensure that there is some restraint."
The force said it actively encouraged officers of all ranks to use social media as a useful tool to update and inform the public.
Mr Forsyth, responding to public questions on the suspension of Brown's account, later said on Twitter: “We all understand the enormous value and benefit of his [Brown's] work but importantly can't pre-empt and won't pre-judge investigation.”
Additional reporting by PAReuse content