Final written warnings for officers who shared ‘deeply hurtful’ WhatsApp message after Sarah Everard’s murder

Two probationary constables have been issued final written warnings following the sharing of an inappropriate graphic on WhatsApp after Sarah Everard’s murder.

May 24, 2023
By Paul Jacques

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy, professional standards lead at the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), said the graphic was “insensitive, inappropriate and deeply hurtful”.

He added: “The thoughtless, unkind actions of the two officers who shared the graphic are incredibly disappointing, and they let everyone down with their behaviour.

“Thankfully colleagues who received the image were disgusted and promptly reported their concerns to the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards, who made an immediate referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

“The IOPC’s investigation found the two officers should face a misconduct meeting. In April, 2022, they were found to have breached the standards of professional behaviour and issued with a final written warning, the most serious sanction available to the panel at a misconduct meeting.

“Officers and staff are regularly reminded of their responsibilities regarding use of social media and are expected to uphold high standards. I am clear that any alleged wrongdoing reported to us will be thoroughly investigated and appropriate action taken.”

The MPS referred the matter to the IOPC in March 2021, following allegations that a probationary constable shared the graphic. The IOPC said it was a ‘meme’, which is often represented as a graphic or other image that is intended to be humorous or amusing and may often be a parody or an attempt to comment on important or serious events.

“The meme contained images and words which appeared to be linked to an ongoing police investigation into the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard. The graphic did not contain photographic images or any other material obtained from the investigation into Ms Everard’s death, or images of her,” said the IOPC.

Several officers who received the meme reported their concerns about the content, believing it was inappropriate for a police officer to share this content.

At a misconduct meeting, this probationary constable, who was based on the MPS Central East Command Unit, was found to have breached the standards of professional behaviour for conduct and authority, respect and courtesy. They were issued with a final written warning and have since resigned.

Another probationary constable, based on Central North Command Unit, also faced a misconduct meeting. They were found to have breached the standards of professional behaviour for challenging and reporting improper behaviour, conduct and authority, respect and courtesy after sharing the graphic and failing to challenge it. They were also issued with a final written warning.

A third police constable, based on Central North Command Unit, received reflective practice after forwarding the image to ask for advice on how to deal with the situation.

The IOPC said all three officers cooperated with the investigation and provided written responses in which they admitted sharing the image and explaining their reasons for their actions.

It added: “Two officers stated they shared the meme because they believed it was an attempt at humour.

“Both officers stated they realised afterwards the content was inappropriate and apologised for their behaviour.

“The third officer stated they had been shocked at the content of the meme and had shared it with people they trusted to seek advice on whether they should report the meme as inappropriate.”

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