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#FreeTheTopsham1: Big support for tweeting Exeter policewoman

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 04, 2012

Sarah Giles' Twitter page

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A police support officer who was ordered offline after ruffling feathers by tweeting on Twitter has won backing from the internet community.

Police Community Support Officer Sarah Giles was told to stop using the micro-blogging site for messages about the Topsham area of Exeter.

However, since revealing she had been forced to close the account and undergo retraining by Devon and Cornwall Police, the officer has found herself at the centre of a campaign for reinstatement on the social networking site.

Using the hashtag #FreeTheTopsham1, Exeter Labour councillor Paul Bull has led calls for the PCSO to be allowed to deliver tweets to her 1,000 followers again.

John Harvey, the Exeter City Centre Manager, joined the campaign tweeting: "Sarah understood Twitter is about interaction – a point often lost on @DC_Police."

Lesley Robson wrote: "As a ward Councillor in the area where Sarah the Topsham bobby works I have nothing but good to report of her" while Ian Clifford wrote that it was a "Bad decision."

Other messages of support included "Wrong decision @DC_Police. It is about interaction and Sarah did it well!" and "If @TopshamPolice were only to tweet the words 'There's nothing to see here. Move along', maybe @DC_Police would be happy?"

One contributor even retweeted the hashtag to TV personality Stephen Fry, arguably the most famous user of the medium, asking him to highlight it to his million-plus followers.

PCSO Giles' tweeted from @TopshamPolice to broadcast the everyday events of life on the busy beat, telling followers about issues such as fixed penalty notices and petty crime.

However, she also tweeted about students, including one a fortnight ago which said: "Lots of strong coffee needed tonight :-/ follow up calls to student who threw up in taxi and victims of wing mirror bashing £exeterfreshers", a reference to first-year university students.

The University of Exeter Students' Guild raised concerns with her bosses "that the tone and content of some tweets from the @TopshamPolice Twitter account were not reflective of the views of the rest of the local Police."

The guild reiterated yesterday the matter was left with police and no further comments would be made on any action taken.

The student guild's role in apparently helping silence the police worker has also come under scrutiny on #FreeTheTopsham1. Simon Bowkett said its "overreaction has had a more negative impact on #Exeter's view of the Guild & students than Sarah's tweets."

Devon and Cornwall Police have maintained the PCSO Giles had not been banned and Assistant Chief Constable Chris Boarland said she would be tweeting again in the "relatively near future."

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