Shaddup you Facebook, cops told

Gareth Wilson wilsong@avusa.co.za
WHILE police departments across the world are embracing the internet as a tool to help fight crime, Port Elizabeth police are banned from using Facebook at work and have been threatened with disciplinary action if they discuss work issues on the social network site.
Port Elizabeth Flying Squad commander Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Marais issued a written order last week forbidding members “from uploading any photos or discussing any issues regarding your official duties on Facebook”.
But puzzled police officers say no policies or guidelines regarding the use of Facebook have been issued and there is no definition of what “official duties” are.
Numerous police departments have official Facebook sites. Thousands of police officers, including one of the national heads for the police legal affairs division, belong to the popular site.
The officers, who did not want to be named, said “sensitive information regarding investigations” had never been placed on Facebook, but it could be used to boost the police image. “It is amazing the police do not want to use Facebook to publicise the good work that is being done,” one said.
Unisa School of Criminal Justice lecturer Rudolph Zinn said if the police did not embrace Facebook they were “extremely short-sighted”.
“It is the way of the future and management must understand that this is a modern era – they must embrace Facebook. You can place pictures of missing persons online as well as hot-spot crime areas and trends. All these things can only help police, so why not use it?”
Institute of Security Studies police expert Dr Johan Burger said police management should draft national guidelines to regulate what could be published on Facebook.
National police spokesman Colonel Vishnu Naidoo said he was awaiting responses from the relevant sections within the police and therefore could not comment.

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