Detectives have been banned from using WhatsApp on the job after senior police claimed the encrypted platform had been misused to share “inappropriate images” and sensitive information.
Detectives have been banned from using WhatsApp on the job after senior police claimed the encrypted platform had been misused to share “inappropriate images” and sensitive information.

NSW cops banned from using WhatsApp on the job

Detectives have been banned from using WhatsApp on the job after senior police claimed the encrypted platform had been misused to share "inappropriate images" and sensitive information.

The move has been met with outrage from seasoned investigators, who say the messaging application - also favoured by cabinet ministers and political staffers - is crucial during live investigations.

WhatsApp group chats are often used by detectives on the same investigation to share information about a suspect's movements or photos on surveillance operations.

But the Professional Standards Command issued an edict last month that the app couldn't be used for police work, citing security concerns.

In a follow-up email to the Criminal Groups Squad on September 22, Detective Superintendent Robert Critchlow outlined the reasons for the ban.

"Some police have been investigated and stood down for sharing telephone intercept material, which found its way out of the closed chat," he wrote.

Superintendent Robert Critchlow has given reasons for the WhatsApp ban. Picture: AAP/Angelo Velardo
Superintendent Robert Critchlow has given reasons for the WhatsApp ban. Picture: AAP/Angelo Velardo

"Some police evidence in statements and logs has been contradicted by WhatsApp chats. Some police members continue to share improper, inappropriate or illegal images and material on WhatsApp with work colleagues."

It is understood those allegations did not arise out of the Criminal Groups Squad but other areas of the force.

Instead of WhatsApp, police have been asked to use Microsoft Teams, which is only available on NSW Police-issued mobile phones and not compatible with every device.

Police sources have slammed the decision, which extends to other encrypted messaging apps, as ridiculous.

One officer pointed out that the internal system was not as effective as WhatsApp.

"In the past we would be doing surveillance of someone and take a pic of the crook and share it on the chat so everyone knew who to look for," a source said.

"But now that's illegal and you'll get in massive shit for doing it. We've gone back 15 years because of some potential security risk."

A police spokeswoman said the PSC reinforced a "Commissioner's Instruction", which prohibited the use of social media platforms to share operation information.

"The NSWPF cannot support the use of non-approved messaging platforms," she said.


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