Cops in online scuffle over fake Twitter posts

Greater Manchester Police has got itself embroiled in an online scuffle, following its angry reaction to a spate of spoofs aimed at its 24-hour experiment to post all crime reports on Twitter.

The move, designed to focus government attention on the complexity of police work ahead of expected spending cuts next week, led a few wags to keep the Twitterati informed and entertained with a litany of fictitious misdeeds - prompting what seems like a bit of an overreaction from the boys in blue.

Pranksters used the Greater Manchester Police's #gmp24 hashtag, and posted tweets from a a variety of accounts with names similar to the police's own @gmp24_1, @gmp24_2, @gmp24_3 and @gmp24_4.

Twitter user @gmp24_7 was one of the first copyists off the mark, prompting police bosses to order him to remove their official crest (oops, sorry guys!) from his Twitter feed.

Greater Manchester Police claimed (somewhat oddly, for an organisation that's supposed to have some understanding of matters legal) that he was in breach of copyright law.

Not content with that, the GMP's official Twitter feed was followed up with a veiled threat, saying: "it could be said impersonating an officer is an offence", prompting a storm of protest from Twitterers.

Lawyer @davidallengreen, alias acclaimed blogger 'Jack of Kent', leapt upon the threat, challenging police to serve a cease and desist notice, and berating them for their lack of legal savvy.

"Are you going to stop threatening copyright infringement against Twitterers or not? Simple yes or no," he tweeted.

But just to prove the British bobby has a sense of humour - and an admirable feel for the vernacular of the mid-1990s - the GMP returned, urging Twitter users to "chill" and imploring them to "have a sense of humour".

And we thought the laughing policeman was something our grannies told us about.

Keep up with the dismal PR-exercise-gone-wrong on Twitter by following @gmpolice.