LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 15: Metropolitan Police cross Lambeth Bridge after it was blocked by Extinction Rebellion protestors on April 15, 2022 in London, England. The climate activists blocked four main bridges in central London today. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)
A THOROUGH investigation living up to professional standards examining a year worth’s of social media messages has resulted in the dismissal of two officers without notice on charges of highly offensive and discriminatory behaviour.
A misconduct hearing held for PC Sukhdev Jeer and PC Paul Hefford, both attached to the forensic services, found the allegations against them proven.
An allegation was also proven for former PC Richard Hammond, who was previously attached to Met operations.
“These vile messages were shared in 2018 within a closed WhatsApp group between a small group of officers. I hardly need to say it is completely unacceptable for anyone, let alone a police officer, to behave in such a manner. The actions of these three are inexcusable,” said Commander Jon Savell, Professional Standards.
“The whole of the Met is focused on rooting out anyone who displays this type of behaviour and lets down the Met and the public we serve. Behaviour like this will absolutely not be tolerated and we are driving that message home to our officers and staff at every opportunity.”
The hearing was held for the officers to answer allegations that they breached police standards of professional behaviour in respect of discreditable conduct, equality and diversity and challenging and reporting improper conduct.
The officers faced charges at the level of gross misconduct that between December 2017 and December 2018, whilst working at the Central East Command Unit, they were part of a WhatsApp group on their private phones.
They used the group to exchange messages, memes and other content which was inappropriate, highly offensive and discriminatory. The content was discriminatory on the grounds of sex, race, religion, sexual orientation and disability, it was said.
Having considered all the evidence, the panel, led by an independent legally qualified chair, found this allegation proven at the level of gross misconduct for PC Jeer and PC Hefford and at the level of misconduct for former PC Hammond.
Former PC Hammond, as an ex-officer with a misconduct only finding, received no sanction as the national police conduct regulations relating to former officers are confined to matters of gross misconduct only. Therefore, this matter will remain on file.
The officers also faced an allegation at the level of misconduct that they each failed to challenge or report the other members of the group for their behaviour. This allegation was proven for PC Jeer and PC Hefford. It was withdrawn for former PC Hammond.
The officers and former officer had admitted all the allegations at the level of misconduct only.
The messages came to light when former PC Hammond’s phone was examined as part of an unrelated criminal investigation. He was dismissed without notice in October last year following his conviction for perverting the course of justice.
Chief superintendent Marcus Barnett, who leads Central East, said: “I joined the command unit in 2019 and since then I have listened to the community to understand what their concerns are and what we, as their service, need to do to earn their trust and respect.
“This repulsive behaviour understandably damages that trust and I want to apologise to every single member of the public we serve in this area.
“These officers have, rightly, been sacked. I do not want any officer who would engage in this sort of behaviour anywhere near your community. I will be personally emailing everyone who works at Central East to reinforce the message that words matter, respect matters, and every time someone sends this sort of message they cause real hurt.”
PCs Jeer and Hefford will now be added to the Barred List held by the College of Policing. Those appearing on the list cannot be employed by police, local policing bodies (PCCs), the Independent Office for Police Conduct or Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services.
The Metropolitan Police that they are working hard to rebuild trust in the Met and recognise that a lot still needs to be done. Every Met employee has been spoken to about responsible use of social media, absolute adherence to professional boundaries and actively intervening and challenging wrong doing.
This has been reinforced several times including via an email from the Commissioner to all officers and staff setting out in simple and clear terms that there is absolutely no room in the Met for any discrimination or prejudice, the press release said.
Other significant steps that the police have taken to start real change across the organisation include asking Baroness Casey of Blackstock to lead an independent review into our culture and standards and an increase in the number of investigators in their professional standards directorate to root out those who abuse their positions of trust.