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The thin VERY blue line: Porn shame of hundreds of police staff disciplined over internet use



By Rebecca Camber

Last updated at 9:22 AM on 02nd January 2010



Hundreds of police workers have faced disciplinary action for looking at internet pornography and social networking sites, figures show.

More than 400 officers and support staff have been sacked or given warnings after being caught looking at inappropriate material online.

Officers have also been dismissed for using police databases to check out people’s backgrounds for personal reasons.


article-1239976-07BD4632000005DC-352_468x371.jpg Caught out: Hundreds of policemen have faced disciplinary action for looking at internet pornography and social networking sites


The total figure of 439 disciplined staff could be much higher because some forces refused to disclose details citing data protection rules.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showed that an inspector in Lancashire was given a written warning for accessing sites at work which ‘are or might be considered to be indecent, offensive, pornographic, or obscene’.

An officer in the same force received a warning for viewing ‘inappropriate’ images.

Earlier this year an inspector was caught looking at ‘pornographic images via the internet’.

South Yorkshire was the force with the worst record, with 53 members of staff caught on inappropriate sites.

One officer was reprimanded for posting an ‘unauthorised video on a commercial internet website’.

A sergeant was warned over the inappropriate use of an email three times, while a PC was disciplined for ‘retention of inappropriate material on the computer system’.

Two civilian police workers and a PC were also forced to leave after accessing ‘police systems to obtain police information without a legitimate policing purpose’.

The information provided by 47 police forces showed that on average nine members of staff have been punished for flouting IT rules in every force.

In Cheshire, 51 were disciplined, including two inspectors who were warned over excessive use of the internet and for using a social networking site.

One special constable was so furious at having been reprimanded for looking at a social networking site that he resigned.

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘You would have hoped that the police of all people would have good enough computer security to prevent employees viewing illicit sites.’

But Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation, said: ‘I am surprised at these figures. I was aware of some officers accessing inappropriate sites on some occasions, but not to this extent.

‘Perhaps forces should be doing more to explain what IT policies and procedures staff are expected to follow.’

The figures come in the week that the Independent Police Complaints Commission announced an investigation into allegations that a Wiltshire PC had sexual images on his personal computer. The officer was arrested earlier this month.

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