A man has been arrested after a documentary claimed a former Metropolitan Police officer set up a ‘vile and deplorable’ WhatsApp group, which counted killer PC Wayne Couzens as a member and became flooded with racist memes and messages, including about Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.
Rob Lewis, the reported creator of the group, has already been put on leave from his UK Border Force job over the ‘abhorrent’ texts sent by him and others, with some alleged to have featured repeated use of the word ‘P*ki’. There is no suggestion that he was the man arrested on Thursday.
According to the BBC Newsnight probe, there were also ‘vile’ messages about the Government’s policy to deport migrants to Rwanda for processing, slurs about black MPs and abuse towards the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Meanwhile there was at least one joke about the recent devastating floods in Pakistan, where 1,700 have died and millions were displaced.
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 also worked for the DPG 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.
This afternoon the Met revealed: ‘Shortly after 12am today, a man aged in his 60s was arrested on suspicion of offences under the Communications Act and misconduct in a public office. He remains in custody at a south London police station.’
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said this afternoon: ‘We have been contacted by the Met Police who advised that they are trying to gather relevant evidence and they are keeping us updated regarding whether any matters emerge which may require referral to us.’
Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley had said earlier: ‘My plan for reform in the Met is already under way. I will be ruthless in rooting out those corrupting officers and staff, including racists and misogynists, from our organisation.
Rob Lewis has been suspended from his UK Border Force job at the Home Office over racist messages shared with police from the same unit as PC Wayne Couzens
Newsnight 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
Sadiq Khan: Cressida Dick was in ‘denial’ about her own officers
The Mayor of London described the message in the group as ‘abhorrent’ and said those involved should be held to account – and used the messages to justify forcing Dame Cressida Dick out of her job.
‘What Londoners will see is a difference in response from this police commissioner, who’s not in denial and isn’t being defensive, versus the previous one. That’s why I lost confidence in her.’
He said: ‘The Met has previously been far too weak and slow to act when this kind of unacceptable behaviour has been exposed. The new Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, has assured me that he’s determined to take a different approach. Any officers found to be responsible for sexism, racism, misogyny, homophobia, bullying or harassment do not deserve to wear the Met uniform and must be quickly rooted out.
‘Baroness Casey continues to lead an independent review into the Met’s culture and standards, which will be vital in helping us to deliver the widescale police reform that’s clearly required.
‘Sir Mark Rowley has committed to winning back the trust of Londoners in the police and I’m confident he understands the scale and urgency of the task at hand. I want to assure Londoners that I will continue to hold the Met to account to ensure we see the step change in culture and performance that’s urgently needed, and which Londoners deserve.’
‘I have taken over as the leader of an organisation that has been far too weak in taking on those who undermine the honest and dedicated majority who determinedly serve the public.
‘That will change and I will continue to seek out those, from both within and outside the Met, with that constructive anger who can help us reform.’
The identity of the arrested man has not been revealed.
The BBC’s Newsnight show 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… the entire undertone is one of racism and misogyny.’
He added: ‘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.
‘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 (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
The scandals that have rocked the capital’s force
In 2014 the notorious investigation was sanctioned by Dame Cressida Dick, then a high-ranking officer at Scotland Yard.
The disastrous inquiry into spurious VIP child sex abuse allegations saw innocent men, including the late Lord Brittan and former Tory MP Harvey Proctor, pursued by the force.
Several men died, with reputations tarnished, before the allegations were disproved.
NICOLE SMALLMAN AND BIBAA HENRY MURDERS
In June 2020 two officers were tasked with guarding a crime scene where sisters Nicole Smallman, 27, and Bibaa Henry, 46, had been stabbed to death.
Officers Deniz Jaffer, 47, and Jamie Lewis, 33, took photos at the scene in Wembley, then shared them in two WhatsApp groups. They were each jailed for two years and nine months last December.
SARAH EVERARD MURDER
In March last year, 33-year-old marketing executive Sarah Everard was abducted, raped and murdered by serving officer Wayne Couzens. The force’s officers were accused of ‘manhandling’ women at a Clapham Common vigil staged ten days after her disappearance.
DANIEL MORGAN INQUIRY
In June last year a report into the unsolved 1987 murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan accused the Metropolitan Police of ‘institutional corruption’.
STEPHEN PORT INVESTIGATION
An inquest jury ruled in December that failures by Yard detectives contributed to the deaths of a serial killer’s three final victims. Stephen Port killed four men in their 20s by giving them overdoses of the date rape drug GHB at his east London home in 2014 and 2015. The inquest found police failed to carry out basic checks. A solicitor for the families said the Met’s actions were driven in part by homophobia. The Independent Office for Police Conduct is to re-investigate the force’s handling of the case.
CHARING CROSS SCANDAL
In February the IOPC exposed conduct by officers based at Charing Cross police station who were found to have joked about rape, killing black children and beating their wives.
Five officers are to face a gross misconduct hearing over their stop and search of Team GB sprinter Bianca Williams in 2020. She and her partner were stopped in west London. Nothing illegal was found and the couple, who are black, claim they were racially profiled.
Met officers did not activate lights or sirens in their unmarked police car before Chris Kaba was shot dead, inquest hears
Chris Kaba, 24, was killed after being shot by a police officer in Streatham Hill on September 5
Metropolitan Police officers did not activate lights or sirens in their unmarked police car before Chris Kaba was shot dead, an inquest heard.
The force has backtracked on a statement which said they were in ‘pursuit’ of a car the 24-year-old was driving before he was shot by an armed officer.
A statement by the force released on September 6, the day after Mr Kaba died, said: ‘At 21:51hrs on Monday, 5 September specialist firearms officers were in pursuit of a suspect vehicle in the Lambeth area.’
But an inquest yesterday heard that Mr Kaba, who died in Streatham Hill, south London, was being followed by an unmarked police car with no lights or sirens turned on in the minutes before the shooting.
A Met Police spokesman today told the MailOnline: ‘Our initial statements said firearms officers were in pursuit of a suspect vehicle.
‘This was based on information available in the very early stages of the incident.
‘The IOPC investigation looking into the full circumstances surrounding Mr Kaba’s death continues.
‘The IOPC is providing updates at appropriate points in its investigation.’
The car driven by the unarmed father-to-be collided with a police vehicle before he was fatally shot in the head by an armed officer, the inquest heard on Tuesday.
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.’
It comes as Metropolitan Police officers are to 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.
‘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.
The Met Police officer who shot dead unarmed black man Chris Kaba has still not been questioned under caution, it emerged this week.
The family of 24-year-old Mr Kaba, who was shot in south London four weeks ago on September 5, have called for all officers who were present at the time to be questioned.
They want a decision on whether the officer who shot him – named only as NX121 at the opening of an inquest – should be charged with murder to be made as soon as possible.
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
Mr Kaba, a rapper and construction worker, was fatally wounded following a police car chase which ended on a narrow residential street in Streatham.
An inquest into his death was opened and adjourned at a brief hearing this morning at Inner South London Coroner’s Court.
The father-to-be was driving someone else’s car which police records had flagged up as being involved in a previous firearms incident.
He was at the wheel of an Audi which was hemmed in by two police cars on Kirkstall Gardens before one bullet was fired from a police weapon. Witnesses said Mr Kaba tried to ram his way free before being shot.