News, Culture & Society

Four police officers sacked for Whatsapp homophobia

Four police officers have been sacked for sending offensive comments about gay and disabled people on WhatsApp while one colleague joked about a sex crime.

They used phrases such as ‘big gay bear’ and ‘big gay purple head’ in the closed chat group, which was set up by a former sergeant.

On Friday the Leicestershire Police officers were found guilty of gross misconduct and sacked.

Four police officers were sacked after using phrases such as ‘big gay bear’ in the chat group

Four others were handed final written warnings after admitting the lesser charge of misconduct for their contributions to the WhatsApp group.

The officers, who cannot be named, sent a total of 92 offensive messages between 2013 and 2014.

Messages targeted gay people and the disabled while one officer made light of a sex crime, a misconduct hearing at the force’s National Training Centre in Leicester heard.

After one officer’s phone was seized in a separate criminal matter, the group was discovered and a misconduct investigation was launched in 2014.

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 10 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.

Messages also targeted the disabled, a misconduct hearing at the force's National Training Centre in Leicester heard

Messages also targeted the disabled, a misconduct hearing at the force’s National Training Centre in Leicester heard

‘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 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.’