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Last Updated: Monday, 13 March 2006, 05:28 GMT
New Met blogging rules spark anger
By Chris Vallance
BBC News

Many organisations are now having to consider how they deal with employees who blog about their work, and one of the most recent to take up the challenge is the Metropolitan Police.

Police officer
The Met says it is not bringing in a ban on blogging

But new guidelines issued by the Met have caused some bloggers to wonder if their weblogs could cost them their jobs.

Blogger World Weary Detective writes: "I have committed no crime. I have compromised no police operations. I have received no payment for anything published on this blog. All opinions expressed are my own.

"I cannot challenge New Scotland Yard. I am weary indeed and cowardice is my bed-mate. The protection of my family must take precedence.

"It is therefore with deep regret and great sadness that I must announce that I will no longer be submitting posts to this blog."


In fact the new Metropolitan Police rules on weblogs written by serving officers have lead several bloggers to follow the World Weary Detective's lead and stop writing.

The move has also generated a good deal of anger in Britain's police blogging community.

One blogger, Cough the Lot, says: "Hypocrisy is the word I think. In the police we are constantly reminded of diversity and human rights and yet here are individuals being punished for penning the way it actually is."

Recently the organisation has become aware of a series of web-logs or blogs where authors - claiming to be police officers - have offered their views on a number of issues
Met Police

Although they declined an interview request, in an e-mailed response to a BBC inquiry, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police stressed that it has not banned blogging.

But the strong wording of the new rules has worried bloggers.

"Recently the organisation has become aware of a series of weblogs or blogs where authors - claiming to be police officers - have offered their views on a number of issues in a highly personalised, often controversial manner," the guidance begins.

'Damaging the organisation'

It then goes on to list a number of conditions for Metropolitan Police bloggers, including a ban on "expressing views and opinions that are damaging to the organisation or bring the organisation into disrepute".

The situation highlights the thorny issue of workplace blogging.

Some organisations prohibit staff from blogging about their work altogether while others, like the Metropolitan Police, offer guidelines to staff who blog.

These blogs reveal what actually goes on behind the glossy, PR-friendly corporate image put across by most forces
Bow Street Runner

Organisations are often fearful of the harm to their public image critical blog posts can represent.

But for some police bloggers the window into the world of police work provided by their writing, is something to be encouraged, provided operational security is not compromised.

Speaking anonymously to BBC Radio Five Live's Brian Hayes programme, one blogger said: "Blogs are proving to be a way the police are connecting with the public in a far more effective way than the official police media services ever could."

That's a view echoed by another blogger, Bow Street Runner, who writes on his weblog: "These blogs reveal what actually goes on behind the glossy, PR-friendly corporate image put across by most forces, and threatens to actually inform the public as to what police officers do."

Drug 'confusion'

Indeed a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority - the elected body charged with overseeing the activities of the force - told Radio Five Live he found the blogs useful.

Many bloggers are set to continue despite new rules

Speaking in a personal capacity, Damien Hockney, the One London Party member of the MPA, said the blogs had been helpful in drawing his attention to confusion surrounding changes to drugs legislation.

"I learnt something quite important as an MPA member - we should be very careful not to just close down on information."

And that is in the end why many bloggers will continue in spite of the new rules.

As one blogger told the BBC: "I write my blog because there is no way that we (frontline officers) can stand up and say: 'Hang on, this isn't the best way to deal with this'.

"We can offer years of experience of actually witnessing, interacting with, and dealing with the very crimes that most of the senior managers only read about on paper."

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