Hertfordshire Constabulary have been urged to change the way they use Facebook – to avoid opening up members of the public to online abuse.

Last week the force published a post on Facebook – including a photograph – to ask for help identifying a woman they wished to speak to about an alleged incident in Croxley Green, near Rickmansworth.

But the post attracted a number of potentially hurtful comments, including “Gangster granny,” “I thought that was Rolf Harris,” and “That’s a woman?”

Liberal Democrat Cllr Hale believes the police now need to change the settings on their Facebook page to rule out such comments.

He highlighted the issue at a meeting of the county council’s community safety and waste management cabinet panel last Thursday (February 14).

“They do need to look at ways to control comments on Facebook. These comments are inappropriate,” he said.

However county council executive member for community safety and waste management Cllr Terry Hone suggested that asking the police to censor responses would be “difficult and time consuming”.

He said: “I think the use of social media is appropriate whether they are looking for suspects, witnesses or anything else. I know that it is used for missing persons – and it’s very helpful.

“If it gets abused by respondents I don’t think there’s a lot that can be done about that. To censor some messages would be difficult and time-consuming.”

Following the meeting, a spokesperson for Hertfordshire Constabulary said the force was constantly looking to improve their use of technology and took steps to remove inappropriate comments.

A statement said: “Social media is an increasingly important tool for police forces to communicate with the public.

“In some cases it is the most effective way of getting information out and a great way to speak directly to different sections of the local community.

“We use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for appeals, to locate wanted people and identify people who may be able to help us with our investigations.

“Whilst we take precautions to ensure that inappropriate comments and opinions posted by the public are removed, the 24/7 nature and sheer volume of interaction on social media can make this challenging.

“We are constantly looking at ways we can improve our use the technology, to help filter inappropriate content from our social media sites, whilst maintaining our ability to interact with the public.”