Trevor Laffan: Prying social media can catch you napping and cost your job

Trevor Laffan says he is glad that camera phones were not a big thing when he served as a garda.
Trevor Laffan: Prying social media can catch you napping and cost your job

SNAP HAPPY: Smartphones mean everyone has a camera to hand these days. Picture posed by models

I’M glad social media wasn’t a thing during my working life. I would not have coped well with having a phone shoved in my face by drunken revellers in the early hours of a Saturday or Sunday morning in the city centre.

The job was difficult enough, without having wannabe film stars trying to get attention for themselves on Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram.

Posting photos and videos on social media is easily done and no evidence or proof is required to support the images. Making judgements based solely on these images is dangerous but the desire for clicks often outweighs the need for facts.

There was a story in The Times about a dustman in Paris who was sacked after he was photographed asleep in a street in the capital, but he earned cult status after claiming wrongful dismissal.

Adama Cissé, 37, enjoyed sympathy in the media and praise from internet users, and was invitated to apply for a new job with Paris council.

His rise to fame began when he took off his shoes, lay down by a shop window in central Paris and nodded off for 20 minutes in the yellow and green overalls used by the city’s refuse collectors.

A passer-by took a photo of him and posted it on Twitter, with theaccompanying message: “This is what local taxes paid by Parisians are used for, to pay refuse collectors to snooze. You can understand why Paris is so disgusting.”

Amid a heated debate over claims that the French capital was dirtier than any other in Europe, the comment was seized upon by Mr Cissé’s employer, a private company that had a contract with Paris council to collect the city’s rubbish. The firm alleged that Mr Cissé had fallen asleep when he was supposed to be working and had delayed his round.

The refuse collector sued his former employer for wrongful dismissal. He told the employment tribunal that the dustcart had been running ahead of the scheduled timetable and he had decided to have a 20-minute pause. Mr Cissé said he was entitled to nod off during this time. “I finished the round on time,” he added.

A spokesman for Paris’s council said it supported Mr Cissé and invited him to apply for a post with the city’s refuse collection department. It said he would join a French public sector whose staff enjoy almost total protection against dismissal, however many naps they take.

I’m glad things worked out for Mr Cisse because that could have been me. 

Back in the early 1980s, I was on duty one Saturday night in Blarney. I was in the patrol car on my own for the night and the shift finished at 6am on Sunday. It had been a long night and when I pulled up outside the garda station to finish up, I was feeling the pinch.

I struggled to keep my eyes open, so I decided it would be safer to grab forty winks before getting into my own car for the drive to Cobh.

It turned out to be a bit longer than that though and I slept soundly until someone tapped on the window of the patrol car on the way to an early Mass and woke me up.

I can only imagine what would have happened if camera phones had existed then. My photo would probably have been plastered across social media and I would have been tried and convicted for sleeping on duty.

The fact that I was on my own time wouldn’t have been considered and I would have ended up like the French dustman.

A camera of a different kind caused problems for an Italian policeman who found himself in hot water after being spotted clocking on for work in his underpants during an undercover operation in Rome.

It was reported that the police officer lived in an apartment above his office and shuffled down the stairs in his slippers to clock in before returning upstairs to get dressed.

The 58 year-old policeman became a symbol of Italy’s legendary workshy civil servants when a hidden camera spotted him in his T-shirt and underpants.

But an Italian court ruled that putting on a uniform is part of the working day and acquitted him. His lawyer claimed that punching the clock could legitimately take place before an officer put his trousers on.

“Donning a uniform was considered part of the working day and could therefore happen after clocking in,” said the lawyer.

The policeman opened a repair shop for domestic appliances after losing his job. His newfound celebrity status meant he frequently had to park far from the store and sneak in the back way to avoid being mobbed by journalists.

He said he would try to get his job back and thanked the court for clearing him. “It’s the end of a nightmare — it has been four years of torture by media.”

That got me thinking again of my Blarney days. I often stayed overnight in the station when changing from a late shift to an early one.

Finishing at 10pm and starting again at 6am the following morning was tough. Driving 40 minutes each way to get home and back didn’t allow much time for sleep, so it made sense to get the head down in the station.

I never opened the station in my jocks though, but that court case in Italy has given me an idea. I just need to remember how many nights I slept in the garda station during my seven years there. Then, once I figure out the time it took me to get dressed every morning, I can make out a claim for the money I’m owed by the State.

Maybe I should ask that Italian policeman to act as my consultant.

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