Newfoundland and Labrador's information and privacy commissioner is questioning the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary's use of social media to find the identity of a suspect.

On Thursday, the RNC tweeted a man's photo, saying he was alleged to have concealed a chicken in his pants at a St. John's grocery store in July.

The tweet also alleged the man assaulted a security guard when questioned and "flew the coop" before police arrived. 

Donovan Molloy says the RNC can release information to identify suspects, but told CBC News on Friday he felt the tweet was unnecessary. 

"What was the danger to the public that necessitated identifying him yesterday and not only trying to identify him but doing it in such a manner that could only serve to humiliate and embarrass the man and his family?" he said.

RNC Chicken Twitter Photo

The RNC tweeted a photo of a man on Thursday who allegedly stole a chicken by hiding it in his pants. (RNC/Twitter)

CBC News published an online story based on the RNC's request for information to help locate the suspect, but removed the story after a discussion about whether it met journalistic guidelines.

Molloy said he feels the tweet is inconsistent with the Access to Information and Privacy Act.

"The information was gathered for the purposes of identifying him. Disclosing the fact that he put a chicken in his pants does not further that purpose in any way, shape or manner," he said.

"Its inclusion appears to have been so he could avail of the joke 'he flew the coop.'"

Wilful blindness

The incident shows some "wilful blindness" on the part of the RNC, Molloy said, and the information will live on the internet long after it's removed from social media. 

"None of this stuff can be retrieved. You know we keep hearing about the new and improved RNC and sensitivities to mental illness and poverty issues and all these things," he said. 

'What's the thought process that went behind this? What are your policies and procedures with respect to identifying suspects?' - Donovan Molloy

"But yet you see something like this ... you wonder what's the thought process that went behind this? What are your policies and procedures with respect to identifying suspects?"

Molloy said he has reached out to the police for more information.

"I asked the RNC for a copy of their policies last night. They told me they didn't have enough time to send them to me. They told me that they were working on a best-practice guide for identifying suspects," he said.

"I certainly will be interested in reviewing that best-practice guide and making comments on it."

With files from On The Go