Charing Cross police station in central London (image: PA/file picture)
Racist, sexist and homophobic messages exchanged by Metropolitan Police officers have been published by a watchdog that found the highly offensive language was dismissed as “banter”.
Details of messages from WhatsApp groups and a Facebook chat group - including multiple references to rape, violence against women, racist and homophobic abuse - were unveiled by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) on Tuesday (1 February).
The watchdog detailed the “disgraceful” behaviour of Metropolitan Police officers based in a now disbanded Westminster team between 2016 and 2018.
I took the unusual step of publishing the messages in full - though some messages are too offensive to share in this report.
It comes as a review of culture and standards in the Met is currently being carried out by Baroness Casey, in the wake of the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer.
So, what did the watchdog find - and were any recommendations made by the IOPC?
What was the nature of the content included in the messages?
Messages exchanged in two WhatsApp groups and one Facebook group included multiple references to sexual violence including, “I would happily rape you”.
In other discussions one officer bragged that he had hit his girlfriend, and told a colleague: “It makes them love you more”, while another boasted that he had repeatedly slept with a prostitute who he met through work.
One officer was referred to as “mcrapey raperson” in WhatsApp messages because of rumours that he had brought a woman to a police station to have sex with her.
Homophobic language was also used and a number of racist messages including references to African children, Somali people and Auschwitz that are too offensive to publish.
There were also references to Muslim fanatics and offensive terms for disabled people, and messages about police officers attending a festival dressed as known sex offenders and a molested child.
The messages were uncovered as part of nine linked investigations into officers based in Westminster, mostly at Charing Cross police station, that began in March 2018 after allegations that an officer had sex with a drunk person at a police station that were later found unproven.
What has the IOPC said?
IOPC regional director Sal Naseem said: “The behaviour we uncovered was disgraceful and fell well below the standards expected of the officers involved. While these officers predominantly worked in teams in Westminster, which have since been disbanded, we know from other recent cases that these issues are not isolated or historic.
“The learning report we are publishing today is shocking and contains language which is offensive – and some may find it upsetting. However, we felt it was important to provide the context for the public, the Met and other forces, for why such hard-hitting recommendations are necessary.”
The IOPC found that the offensive language was dismissed as banter to hide bullying, and that officers felt unable to raise concerns.
Messages were found including: “There’s a few of those grassing c**** I would like to knife”, “grassing is dirty” and “I’ve made it the no grassing no shit of anyone team… it’s my f****** baby”.
Mr Naseem said: “Our investigation showed the officers’ use of ‘banter’ became a cover for bullying and harassment. Colleagues were afraid to speak out about these behaviours for fear of being ostracised, demeaned or told to get another job.
“We are grateful to those officers who were brave enough to speak to us about the cultural issues that existed within these teams, realising that in doing so they risked further bullying. This took courage. Hopefully our learning report and recommendations will give officers the confidence to come forward in the knowledge that people are listening and that changes will be made.
“The relationship between the police and the public is critical to maintaining the principle of policing by consent.
“The concerns about behaviour and culture addressed in our report, if allowed to continue and go unchallenged, risked causing serious damage to that relationship.”
How many officers were investigated by the watchdog?
Fourteen officers were investigated by the IOPC, and two were found to have a case to answer for gross misconduct – one of whom resigned and one was sacked.
Misconduct was proven against another two, one of whom received a written warning, while another four had internal measures to improve their performance.
Deputy assistant commissioner Bas Javid said: “I am angry and disappointed to see officers involved in sharing sexist, racist and discriminatory messages. It’s clear we have a lot of work to do to ensure bullying and discrimination does not exist in any part of the Met.
“The actions of these officers between 2016 and 2018 were unacceptable, unprofessional, disrespectful and deeply offensive. I read their messages with increasing disgust and shame.
“We haven’t waited for the IOPC’s report to take action – a number of officers have been subject to misconduct proceedings, including one officer dismissed and one who would have been dismissed had he not already resigned.
“Every Met employee has also been spoken to about responsible use of social media.
“We recognise that there is need for real change in the Met and we are committed to creating an environment that is even more intolerant to those who do not uphold the high values and standards expected of us.”
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