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College of Policing calls for input on Ethics review

The announcement coincided with a discussion on social media about conduct following an IOPC judgment over inappropriate contact by an officer.

The College of Policing is looking into an overhaul the Code of Ethics for staff and officers to end uncertainty over issues such as use of social media and contact with victims of crime or offenders.

It has launched a consultation, open to all officers, to set the scope of a review aimed at improving understanding of the professional boundaries officers must meet.

Officers and staff are also being urged to join the committee that will review evidence.

A critical issue is conduct when officers are off-duty, particularly their personal social media use and comments in closed WhatsApp chat groups.

Frontline officers are under pressure to get it right on a raft of situations including stop and search procedures.

The College said: “We recognise the complexity and ambiguity of situations faced by those in policing on a daily basis. A revised Code of Ethics will seek to support policing by providing a framework that can be used practically to face these challenges.”

Any changes will also include empirical research and practitioner experience.

Superintendent Marcus Griffiths, policing standards manager for ethics, said: “By undertaking this review, we will ensure that the Code of Ethics provides a framework to support ethical decision-making and clear guidance on the standards of professional behaviour within the police service.”

He added: “A revised Code of Ethics will shape how this is delivered in the coming years. I would therefore encourage everyone to contribute to this important work ensuring ethics is at the centre of how we deliver policing.”

The announcement came on the same day as the Independent Office for Police Conduct issued a final written warning to an officer who had contacted a woman with mental health issues over the social media site Instagram.

The announcement of the verdict led to a social media discussion by officers and experts on how to reduce the number of officers behaving inappropriately.

Contributors shared how officers found to have made inappropriate contacts have argued their personal lives are separate from the job.

Other officers who have been victims of behaviour that breach standards are often reluctant to report it in order to protect the officers involved from losing their careers.

Forces improving training for new recruits was raised as one solution.

In answer to a question on social media from Police Oracle, Martin Drapper, who advises officers on social media, said: “The training needs to be part of recruitment & continued throughout service, esp when social network guidelines are updated or there are precedent-setting misconduct cases.”

Ella Brooks, a workplace wellbeing specialist, said: “There needs to be effective social media training that explicitly discusses examples of how to behave.”

The consultation on the scope for the Code of Ethics review closes on 10 September.

The College is also inviting expressions of interest to be part of the review committee. Complete the feedback form or email: ethics.review@college.pnn.police.uk

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