Four police officers sacked for offensive messages
FOUR police officers who shared offensive messages about gay people and disability on their private mobile phones have been dismissed from the force.
The four Leicestershire officers were sacked following a long disciplinary process which concluded they were guilty of gross misconduct.
Four of their colleagues who were also members of the private chat group on the mobile app WhatsApp were found guilty of the lesser offence of misconduct.
They will all receive final written warnings.
All eight officers admitted sharing “discriminatory or offensive” messages on their private phones in 2013 and 2014. They said their behaviour amounted to misconduct.
Their force referred the case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission when the messages came to light.
The commission said the nature of their remarks amounted to the more serious offence of gross misconduct and ordered that the matter should go to a formal hearing.
The process got off to a troubled start in January this year when it became bogged down in legal arguments without formally opening.
It reconvened last week and came to a conclusion on Friday evening.
Misconduct panel chairman Miran Uddin said dismissal of the four officers who had shared the most offensive and numerous messages was the only option open to him.
He told each of the four officers in turn: “Public confidence in the police would be wholly undermined by any outcome other than dismissal.”
A number of the officers - who cannot be named under a ruling made by the panel chairman – became visibly upset.
Their barristers, Nick Yeo and Matthew Butt, had argued the officers had never discriminated against any individual and that the messages did not reflect the officers’ beliefs.
The WhatsApp group, which allows members to share private messages, had been set up by a more senior officer who is no longer with the force, they said.
Mr Yeo, representing the four officers who were found guilty of gross misconduct, told the hearing: “It is four and a half years since this conduct and more than three years since it was first identified.
“It is a little over two years since the officers were told their conduct was going to be the subject of these proceedings.
“In each case, the officers will tell you they are a changed person and their conduct in sending these messages is not reflective of their true character as you would find it today.
“There has been plenty of time for them to reflect on their conduct and modify their behaviour.
“It would seem that, at the time, there was an element of it being thought to be in some way acceptable or permissible to behave in this way. In the past two years, the officers have had to consider their conduct and come to a contrary view.
“The character statements come from people who know these officers and how they behave now.
“These proceedings have been hanging over their heads and this has had an impact on them in differing ways due to the stress which has been brought upon them.”
Matthew Butt, representing the four officers who admitted the lesser offence of misconduct, said: “We are dealing with officers who would never discriminate against any individual on the grounds of any particular protected characteristic.
“Some of the officers played a peripheral role in this case.
“They have had this hanging over them for some time.
“They have addressed their failings and learned a very hard lesson by virtue of these proceedings.”