News, Culture & Society

Home Office suspends ex-Met Police cop over racist WhatsApp group chat

A former Met Police officer has been suspended after he set up a WhatsApp chat flooded with racist memes and messages, including about Meghan and Harry, in a group whose members included policemen who served in the same unit as PC Wayne Couzens, it was revealed today.

Rob Lewis has been suspended from his UK Border Force job at the Home Office over ‘abhorrent’ texts, with some alleged to include the repeated use of the word ‘P*ki’.

There are also said to be ‘vile and deplorable’ messages and memes about the Government’s policy to deport migrants to Rwanda for processing, slurs about black MPs as well as abuse towards Harry and Meghan.

Rob Lewis has been suspended from his UK Border Force job at the Home Office over racist messages

Several of the members of the WhatsApp group used to work for the Diplomatic Protection Group (DPG), the armed unit that guards Parliament and embassies. 

Wayne Couzens worked in the group until he abducted, raped and murdered Sarah Everard. Just two weeks ago two serving Met officers were convicted of sending grossly offensive misogynistic and racist messages in a WhatsApp group with Couzens.

Metropolitan Police officers have today been found guilty of sending grossly offensive misogynistic and racist messages in a WhatsApp group with Sarah Everard’s killer.

The BBC’s Newsnight reported Rob Lewis had created a group chat with other former Met officers.

The programme said it was shown messages from the group by Dave Eden, another former police officer. 

He said: ‘There are references to black politicians, which are extremely unpleasant,’ he told the BBC. ‘The entire undertone is one of racism and misogyny.’

Mewsnight said it was shown messages from the group by Dave Eden, another former police officer.

Mewsnight said it was shown messages from the group by Dave Eden, another former police officer.

Met police officers will be given smartphones in a bid to crack down on misconduct and improve access to technology under the first initiative of new commissioner Sir Mark Rowley

Met police officers will be given smartphones in a bid to crack down on misconduct and improve access to technology under the first initiative of new commissioner Sir Mark Rowley

 ‘This group tells me that the culture of the Metropolitan Police hasn’t changed. And in fairness, it’s not just this group, it’s other groups. It’s what I’m hearing out of the mouths of ex-colleagues. And what I’m witnessing all the time.’

Another serving officer, told the BBC: ‘I do not think these behaviours and ideologies can be removed from the Met.

Members of the WhatsApp group are understood to have worked in the same unit as Britain's most hated policeman, Wayne Couzens

Members of the WhatsApp group are understood to have worked in the same unit as Britain’s most hated policeman, Wayne Couzens

‘Individuals need to be held accountable and made an example of to demonstrate to colleagues that these behaviours and ideologies have no place in the Met. I fail to see any substantial improvement within the organisation.’

The BBC also claims a serving Met officer has shared a racist image that involves a picture of black babies. 

The Home Office said it had suspended a member of staff, believed to be Lewis, who has not commented.

‘We expect the highest standards of our staff and have a zero tolerance approach to anyone displaying racist, homophobic, misogynist or discriminatory behaviour,’ the statement said.

‘Where we are made aware of such behaviour we will not hesitate to take decisive action.’

Commander Jon Savell, who is responsible for the Metropolitan Police’s professional standards, said the messages shared were ‘abhorrent’.

‘These messages are abhorrent and have absolutely no place in policing or society,’ he said.

‘Their behaviour erodes the confidence that the public has in the police – a confidence that the vast majority of us in the Met works tirelessly day-in, day-out to maintain and improve.

‘Racism, misogyny, homophobia or any other discriminatory behaviour has no place in the Met.

‘Where such behaviour is identified it will be dealt with robustly, but we will also be actively seeking out those whose actions bring shame to us.

‘We contacted Mr Eden’s representatives when these messages first emerged in April but they declined to share further details. We urge them to reconsider so we can take action.

‘In the meantime we appeal to anyone who has information about such behaviour to make contact.’

Deniz Jaffer

Jamie Lewis

Deniz Jaffer (left) and Jamie Lewis (right) were police constables assigned to guard the murder scene of Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry and shared images on Whatsapp while on duty

Bibaa Henry, 46, and Nicole Smallman, 27, were stabbed to death at a park in London in 2020

Bibaa Henry, 46, and Nicole Smallman, 27, were stabbed to death at a park in London in 2020

Sir Mark Rowley was chosen for the £293,000-a-year job after Dame Cressida Dick was ousted in February by London mayor Sadiq Khan following scandals including the murder of Sarah Everard by an officer and the jailing of two officers who photographed dead bodies. The force was recently plunged into special measures.

the new Commissioner promised to be ‘ruthless’ in rooting out those ‘corrupting’ the force and ‘deliver more trust, less crime and high standards for London’.

He said: ‘Our mission is to lead the renewal of policing by consent which has been so heavily dented in recent years as trust and confidence have fallen.

‘I am grateful that the Home Secretary and mayor are both determined to support the urgent reforms we need to deliver successful community crimefighting in today’s fast-moving world. These reforms include our use of technology and data, our culture and our policing approach.

‘We will fight crime with communities – not unilaterally dispense tactics. I also know that the majority of officers and staff retain an extraordinary sense of vocation and determination and want us to do better. It is my job to help them do that, whilst also being ruthless in removing those who are corrupting our integrity.’

Metropolitan Police officers will be given smartphones in a bid to crack down on misconduct

The initiative was one of the first to be launched under new commissioner Sir Mark Rowley who earlier this month pledged to ‘retake’ the scandal-hit force’s ‘integrity’.

According to the Times, the move means every officer will be able to use the new smartphones to communicate with each other and collect evidence.

In the past, thousands of officers were forced to use their own mobile phones to record evidence at crime scenes and conduct basic investigative work. 

It follows a number of high-profile misconduct investigations which saw several police officers use their own mobile phones to send inappropriate messages and share crime scene pictures.

In December last year, officers Deniz Jaffer and Jamie Lewis were jailed for almost three years after they were found to have taken and shared photos from a murder scene.

A court heard the pair had ‘dehumanised’ the two black victims – Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry – by sharing photos of their bodies in two WhatsApp groups.

Messages shared with 41 police officers called the victims ‘dead birds’ in a group called ‘the A-team’ and other messages were also shared with Jaffer’s friends.

There was also outrage over a series of disturbing racist, sexist and homophobic messages that were exchanged by officers based at Charing Cross police station between 2016 and 2018, published by a watchdog earlier this year.

A bombshell report by the IOPC watchdog exposed a cruel, toxic ‘boys club’ culture among officers at Charing Cross police station.

It found cops made rape jokes, boasted about domestic violence and made vile racist remarks in WhatsApp exchanges.

Grim texts between officers about raping women, killing black children, paedophilia, Muslims, Auschwitz and disabled people were also published in the watchdog’s report.

Sources told the Times that giving officers work smartphones would not only improve their access to technology but would also allow senior managers to keep an eye on what their officers are up to. 

Sir Mark Rowley, along with his new deputy Dame Lynne Owens, swore allegiance to the King on earlier this month, pledging to rebuild public trust.

The new head of the Metropolitan Police starts work during what is arguably one of the most turbulent times to face Britain’s biggest police force. 

Sir Mark took an oath, known as an attestation, in which he swore to serve ‘with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all people’.

He takes over as Commissioner at Scotland Yard after former boss Dame Cressida Dick resigned in controversial circumstances earlier in the year.

The force has been plagued by a series of scandals and missteps in recent years, leaving Sir Mark with the task of rebuilding public confidence.

The head of the Metropolitan Police Federation told the Times the initiative was a ‘completely positive’ move.

Ken Marsh added:  ‘The cost [of using devices] should not be borne by the employee.

Sir Mark Rowley (left) and Deputy Commissioner Lynne Owens sign the Warrant Register at New Scotland Yard in London, where Sir Mark starts as Metropolitan Police Commissioner

Sir Mark Rowley (left) and Deputy Commissioner Lynne Owens sign the Warrant Register at New Scotland Yard in London, where Sir Mark starts as Metropolitan Police Commissioner

‘This is moving the Met into the modern age of 2022, [it] will give officers direct access and the ability to keep in touch.’

The force was placed in a form of special measures by a watchdog earlier this year.

In a sternly worded letter before his tenure began, then-home secretary Priti Patel demanded that Sir Mark address the ‘appalling mistakes of the past’.

She wrote to Sir Mark earlier this month saying: ‘I expect the Metropolitan Police under your leadership to get the basics right and provide the first-class service expected of it.’

‘I also expect you, as Commissioner, to promote better leadership and higher standards at every level throughout the force.

Other issues facing Sir Mark are ongoing investigations into deaths following police contact including Oladeji Omishore who died after jumping from Chelsea Bridge; a man who drowned after trying to swim away from officers to avoid being arrested in Kingston; and Chris Kaba who was fatally shot by an officer in Streatham Hill.

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