HAMPSHIRE Police officers have been reminded never to share any operational information on WhatsApp.
Zoë Wakefield, Hampshire Police Federation Chair, was speaking after a case at the Met recently – publicized by the Independent Office for Police Conduct – where officers were using instant messaging on their own phones to discuss work related matters including sharing operational information and sensitive documents.
Zoë said: “My view is that WhatsApp is a social media tool. The force should have other systems in place so that officers don’t need to use it for operational stuff.
“Officers will use it for ‘Who’s bringing the milk in this morning?’ Or, ‘I’ve overslept, can you tell everyone I’m going to be five minutes late’, or, ‘I’m stuck in traffic’. Or to send someone a happy birthday on a rest day. That’s okay. We shouldn’t be using it for operational reasons.”
Recommendations have been made to all police forces in England and Wales to ensure a consistent approach of work group messages, following a review by the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
IOPC Deputy Director General for Operations Claire Bassett said: “Social media and instant messaging are a part of all of our lives and it’s important that policing policies and procedures reflect changes in the way we use technology in everyday life. WhatsApp can be a useful tool for officers to message one another about swapping a shift or for communications like sharing information if a child is missing or notifying communities about an increase in thefts.
“At the same time, the risks associated with this use need to be managed, so it’s critical to get the balance right. These recommendations will help police forces do this, and it’s been good to see several forces have already set up task forces in response to look at this.”
To see the recommendations in full, go to: https://www.policeconduct.gov.uk/news/nine-national-recommendations-made-regarding-police-officers’-use-whatsapp-messaging-system