Officers sent nearly 100 messages targeting gay and disabled on a WhatsApp group
Four out of eight officers with unblemished records and many commendations between them have been dismissed for sending offensive comments about gay and disabled people on WhatsApp.
Four out of eight officers with unblemished records and many commendations between them have been dismissed for sending offensive comments about gay and disabled people on WhatsApp. The Leicestershire Police officers made a string of homophobic remarks such as “big gay bear” and “big gay purple head” while one colleague even joked about a sex crime in the closed chat group, which was set up by a former sergeant. All the unnamed officers admitted sharing a total of 92 discriminatory or offensive messages on their private phones between 2013 and 2014, a misconduct hearing at the force`s National Training Centre in Leicester heard. One officer sent 60 messages alone. Four were sacked after being found guilty of gross misconduct while the remaining quartet were handed final written warnings after admitting the lesser charge of misconduct for their contributions to the WhatsApp group. Disciplinary panel chairman Miran Uddin said the messages risked rocking relations between police and the public. “Public confidence in the police would be wholly undermined by any outcome other than dismissal,` he said, adding that an officer who sent ten offensive messages in nine months used abhorrent language. The expressions used by this officer would raise nothing but abhorrence in the mind of a reasonable member of the public,” he said. Nick Yeo, representing the sacked officers, said their behaviour had improved since 2013. “It is four-and-a-half years since this conduct and more than three years since it was first identified,” he said. “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.” Matthew Butt, representing the officers now on final warnings, said they would never treat minorities differently in their work. “We are dealing with officers who would never discriminate against any individual on the grounds of any particular protected characteristic,” he said. “They have addressed their failings and learned a very hard lesson by virtue of this hearing.” The messages first came to light in 2014 when detectives seized the personal phone of another officer under investigation for an unrelated criminal matter. The investigation concluded the officer who is not one of the eight involved in this case had committed no criminal offence, but the messages, according to Leicestershire Police and the Independent Police Complaints Commission, amounted to gross misconduct. The misconduct panel first sat in January this year. The session lasted five days, but became mired in legal argument and did not formally open or hear evidence against the men. It was dominated by discussions during which the officers legal team argued, unsuccessfully, that evidence seized during a criminal investigation was not admissible in misconduct proceedings. The officers legal team also argued that the officers were entitled to express their thoughts privately, and that the length of the investigation was unfair and had caused distress, and, in some cases, illness among the officers. The case was adjourned and the panel reconvened on September 4, concluding on Friday (September 8). Following the hearing, Chief Constable Simon Cole said in a statement: All our officers and staff are expected to act with the utmost integrity and professionalism, to demonstrate their commitment to diversity and to challenge unacceptable behaviour both on and off duty and also in the context of any digital communications they may choose to send to others. “That is what we expect, and what the public has every right to expect. All eight of these officers failed to do just that, and admitted to breaching the standards of beha