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RCMP warns members about social media posts

By Erica Bulman, 24 Hours Vancouver

Valleyview residents hold Canada flags as they watch RCMP members and other police officers attend the Regimental Funeral Service for Constable James Lundblad, in Valleyview, Alberta Monday, May 11, 2009. (David Bloom/QMI Agency File Photo)

Valleyview residents hold Canada flags as they watch RCMP members and other police officers attend the Regimental Funeral Service for Constable James Lundblad, in Valleyview, Alberta Monday, May 11, 2009. (David Bloom/QMI Agency File Photo)

VANCOUVER -- The RCMP has issued a warning to its employees, forbidding them to identify themselves as force employees when posting personal comments or opinions on social media sites.

"When using social media for personal use, you must always remember that you are an employee of the RCMP," read a memo obtained by 24 hours.

"The code of conduct that accompanies your employment with the RCMP is in effect both on and off duty," it reminded employees.

According to Sgt. Rob Vermeulen of RCMP's E Division, the focus of the policy was Twitter accounts.

"E Division did not have any formal social media policy beyond the National policy and this update, which has been in the works for almost a year now, is simply to ensure that we have some consistency for our Twitter followers," he told 24 hours in an email. "For instance, when people follow a detachment MRO we don't want them to have to keep looking for new accounts when the member is transferred."

A group of Mounties, past and present, launched a blog earlier this month to express their cynicism over Commissioner Bob Paulson’s efforts to clean up the force. This came on the heels of a bitter e-mail exchange between Paulsen and two B.C. RCMP officers being leaked to the public.

However, the Re-Sergeance Alliance blog, claiming to represent more than 500 members in the RCMP’s E Division in B.C., was taken down shortly after and the home of a man connected to it was searched.

Pausing their social media strategy, Re-Sergeance delivered an open letter to Canadians to the Denman Island office of police psychologist Mike Webster.

“Re-Sergeance is not a person, a group, or a blogspot. Re-Sergeance is an idea, and an idea cannot be stopped … If you have ever thought that the once proud RCMP was, at present, ‘horribly broken’ and in need of a transformation, you were, at that moment, a member of the Re-Sergeance Alliance,” said the letter, which also asked for help keeping alive the alliance.

“Please take advantage of social media to call for radical ‘turn-around’ change in the RCMP.

“As we will have difficulty keeping the Re-Sergeance blogspot alive we will call upon you, concerned Canadians, to assist us in rescuing the Force before it consumes itself.”