The blog and Twitter account of Inspector Michael Brown, better known as @MentalHealthCop, have been suspended by West Midlands Police while they investigate potential broaches of their social-media policy.
Obviously they have to investigate allegations made to them, although I would be surprised if any harm done out-weighed the great benefit of Inspector Brown’s blogging and tweeting both for the police service and for public understanding of how the police deal with mental health. West Midlands Assistant Chief Constable Garry Forsyth is tweeting about the case:
It’s really interesting to see a senior officer responding to criticism like this, and another example of why social media are becoming important police communication tools.
For the record, up until yesterday, @MentalHealthCop was the most-followed official individual UK police officer account on Twitter, with more than 16,000 followers. This is more followers than the official force accounts for 11 police forces in England and Wales (Bedfordshire Police, Cambridgeshire Constabulary, Cleveland Police, Dorset Police, Durham Constabulary, Dyfed Powys Police, Gloucestershire Police, Humberside Police, Suffolk Police, Warwickshire Police and Wiltshire Police) and 4,000 more followers than any other individual officer in the UK (@HantsPCMark). Looking just at West Midlands Police, @MentalHealthCop had more than double the followers of any other officer (the next most popular is @SuptPayneWMP) and more followers than every division in the force except for @brumpolice. I’ve blogged about his supremacy of the police Twittersphere before, but recently he seems to have become even more popular: he’s gained more followers in the past six months (4,800) than most UK police Twitter accounts have in total.
While West Midlands Police investigate the allegations against Inspector Brown, they have stopped access to both his blog and Twitter account. This could be very damaging because both were widely recognised sources of information about policing and mental health, and particularly useful for officers struggling to deal with difficult or unfamiliar mental-health incidents. Fortunately, the Internet Archive has a version of the blog from 10 February. To provide a Twitter equivalent, I’ve put all @MentalHealthCop’s tweets for the past six months as a Google spreadsheet.