Metropolitan Police officers could be sacked for posting offensive messages

The officers worked in a unit at Bethnal Green police station and posted inappropriate, highly offensive and discriminatory content on WhatsApp.

Pc Sukhdev Jeer (right) and Pc Paul Hefford arriving for a misconduct hearing (PA)
Pc Sukhdev Jeer (right) and Pc Paul Hefford arriving for a misconduct hearing (PA)

Two Metropolitan Police officers could be sacked after posting offensive messages in a group chat, including a racist joke about the Duchess of Sussex, a hearing has heard.

Pc Sukhdev Jeer and Pc Paul Hefford, who worked in a unit at Bethnal Green police station in east London, posted inappropriate, highly offensive and discriminatory content on WhatsApp in 2018.

Their actions, labelled “abhorrent and discriminatory”, amounted to gross misconduct, the tribunal decided on Friday, meaning they could be dismissed from the force.

They also failed to challenge and/or report the members of the group after receiving the offensive messages.

The postings in this group caused serious reputational damage to the Metropolitan Police as a whole. They were mocking and discriminatory to many sections of society the Metropolitan Police force was meant to be policing

Tribunal chair Maurice Cohen

The hearing at the Empress State Building, in west London, heard the posts, including one comparing Meghan Markle to a “golliwog” toy, were “discriminatory and serious in nature”.

Messages from former officer Richard Hammond, who was also in the group, were regarded as misconduct by the tribunal panel.

Chair Maurice Cohen said: “The postings in this group caused serious reputational damage to the Metropolitan Police as a whole.”

He added: “They were mocking and discriminatory to many sections of society the Metropolitan Police force was meant to be policing.

“Bethnal Green is an extremely diverse area.”

Mr Cohen said the posts took place “over an extended period of time” and that the officers “should have been aware” of their “unacceptable nature”.

He added: “(They) should have been aware these posts were overtly racist, ableist and sexist.”

Pc Jeer, described as the “most active contributing member”, posted a series of “highly discriminatory and offensive” pictures and messages.

It was heard that in one message, Pc Jeer shared an image of a “golliwog” toy that was captioned: “A sneak preview at Meghan’s wedding dress.”

Another was of a young boy in a hoodie which was captioned “monkey in the jungle”.

A further post said: “Everyone is so politically correct these days. You can’t even say, ‘Black paint,’ you have to say, ‘Tyrone can you please paint that wall?’”.

Pc Jeer had previously told the hearing he was “not in a good place” and had used the language to cope with the “issues” he had been experiencing.

Mr Cohen said: “In respect of culpability, Pc Jeer’s content lacked thought and consideration.”

Barrister Ben Summers argued Pc Jeer should not be dismissed over a “handful of inappropriate jokes” which caused “limited harm”.

He described Pc Jeer as a “long-serving” member of the force who should be allowed “an opportunity for learning”, through a warning.

The tribunal heard that Pc Hefford posted a message of two black men lying next to two white women.

The panel has found the postings were abhorrent and discriminatory in nature and the damage it has done to public confidence is substantial and far-reaching

Vishal Misra, representing the Met

It was captioned: “Girls’ trip to Jamaica. One came back pregnant, the other came back with syphilis. (Just kidding, they’re both still missing.)”

Michael Shaw, representing Pc Hefford, said the officer found his posts “embarrassing and difficult” and has learned a “sad lesson”.

He added: “Simply sacking him won’t restore public confidence in the Met.”

Mr Cohen, deciding their actions amounted to gross misconduct, said: “These standards fell seriously short of those expected of a Metropolitan Police officer.”

Former officer Hammond also sent a “discriminatory message” about the London borough of Tower Hamlets, it was said.

Vishal Misra, representing the Met, said: “The panel has found the postings were abhorrent and discriminatory in nature and the damage it has done to public confidence is substantial and far-reaching.”

He went on: “They have shown little by the way of remorse and contrition, minimising and deflecting what had been said to excuse behaviour rather than explain.”

Mr Misra also said “trust once lost is not easily regained” adding dismissal is needed to maintain public confidence in the force.

It comes as the Met, the UK’s largest police force, was placed under special measures this week after a series of failures.

The panel will decide what action to take later on Friday.

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