Police officers are putting videos of themselves singing and dancing online despite being warned that it sends the wrong message as Britain battles the coronavirus pandemic.
Dozens of officers are filming themselves performing the latest dance crazes and lip-syncing to pop songs on social media, including choreographed routines with colleagues, while wearing full uniform or on duty in stations.
More videos are being posted every day on the popular app TikTok, even though chiefs have warned them it is inappropriate when Britain is in the grip of the deadly Covid-19 outbreak.
Chief Constable Gavin Stephens, the national lead for digital engagement, has warned forces about the trend. He told The Mail on Sunday: ‘From a National Police Chiefs Council point of view, we’ve been very clear, particularly through Covid, that we’re not encouraging people to take part in dancing, rapping TikTok challenges.’
Chief Constable Andy Cooke, of Merseyside Police, said his officers could even face misconduct investigations over the videos.
He said: ‘We have reminded all officers and staff that such behaviour is wholly unprofessional and will not tolerated by the force.
‘As a force, Merseyside Police holds clear policies about standards of behaviour, including the inappropriate use of social media, and anything which breaches these standards would be subject to potential disciplinary proceedings.
‘This is a challenging time for policing. Above all else, we are here to support the NHS and keep policing our communities, many of whom would be rightly appalled to see police officers failing to show respect for the uniform they wear.
‘We simply don’t want anything to detract from the outstanding work our officers and staff are putting in at the moment.’
It is understood that Home Secretary Priti Patel takes a ‘dim view’ of the antics, which also risk angering the thousands of members of the public who have been fined by police for socialising during the lockdown. A friend of the Home Secretary said: ‘She is not amused, put it that way.’
Mr Stephens said: ‘In the midst of all this, we’ve got more important things to do. What I’ve told my local teams is we will get through this as a country and there will be a time to celebrate and at that point it may well be more appropriate.’
Whitehall sources said Ms Patel is concerned about the image portrayed by the dancing policemen. Last year, she accused Dorset Police of wasting taxpayers’ money on a social media worker with an ‘inflated salary’ higher than that of a rookie constable.
Police in England and Wales have embraced most social media platforms as a way of communicating with the public, with the main corporate accounts gathering more than five million followers on Facebook and seven million on Twitter.
Many forces monitor the accounts 24/7 so they can respond to crime reports made online. But chiefs have drawn the line at TikTok, because almost all of the videos posted are jokey dance routines.
In one recent clip, dubbed the ‘quarantine canoe’, six uniformed officers pretend to row across their station on office chairs.
Several female officers have posted videos of themselves and a colleague attempting to perform a ‘kick challenge’ where they tap feet in sync.
Others post footage taken from inside police cars and vans as they respond to incidents.
The soundtrack to the videos sometimes include foul-mouthed comedy sketches and songs with lyrics about sex or violence.