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Mental Health Cop’s twitter account suspended as police chiefs take fright

Mental Health Cop’s twitter account suspended as police chiefs take fright

🕔17.Feb 2014

West Midlands Police’s claim to be at the forefront of the social media revolution took a knock at the weekend when the force suspended the Twitter feed of an award-winning Inspector who specialises in writing about mental health issues.

Inspector Michael Brown’s @MentalHealthCop account was frozen on Friday, on the orders of Assistant Chief Constable Garry Forsyth.

Mr Forsyth issued a statement confirming that Inspector Brown was under investigation for alleged misuse of a force social media account.

The decision caused an immediate uproar, with followers of @MentalHealthCop and prominent politicians joining forces to demand the reinstatement of the Twitter account.

The suspension was all the more surprising given the force’s commitment to communicating via social media. Police across the West Midlands regularly use Twitter to talk about their work and are encouraged to do so by senior officers.

Birmingham city councillor Wassem Zaffar, chairman of the social cohesion and community safety committee, used Facebook to comment on the issue: “Huge outcry on Twitter following West Midlands Police decision to suspend @MentalHealthCop – Inspector Michael Brown from use of twitter.

“He is a nationally recognised champion of mental health who has advised other forces as well as government. Respect the Police’s policy but sincerely hope this is a swift investigation as his work is desperately needed and clearly recognised in the recent scrutiny inquiry that I chaired.”

Inspector Brown, who has 16,000 Twitter followers, has posted regularly giving advice to fellow officers about the correct procedures for dealing with incidents involving people with mental health difficulties.

He describes his blog as “by a cop interested in mental health issues for cops who have to deal with mental health incidents.”

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones is one of his supporters and has often ‘retweeted’ Inspector Brown’s comments. Mr Jones has no direct control over police disciplinary matters, but stated on his Twitter account that he hoped the investigation would be concluded quickly.

Inspector Brown is believed to have fallen foul of the West Midlands Police social and digital media policy by using his Twitter account to highlight a lack of resources, which he claimed was “costing lives and billions”.

He has been recognised nationally for his work in the mental health sector and recently won a Mind Media award for his Twitter blog.

Inspector Brown told the Guardian newspaper that his interest in the subject began when he was a custody sergeant and began to encounter “many people” with mental health difficulties being brought into custody.

Inspector Brown has not been suspended from work and continues to carry out his duties.

ACC Forsyth 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. I also can’t imagine any organisation that would want its employees to be openly critical of it – or indeed allow it.

“The policy is not intended to discourage personal perspectives and I believe a human element assists with engagement.”

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