An experienced murder squad detective has been kicked out of West Midlands Police for sharing work-related messages via WhatsApp.
DC Knowles was dismissed without notice after gross misconduct was found proven following an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation.
At a three-day gross misconduct hearing held by West Midlands Police, which ended this week (18 May 2022), DC Knowles faced allegations over his conduct in using his personal phone to send operational material to colleagues during a murder investigation contrary to force policy.
The IOPC received a conduct referral from the force in September 2020 and began an independent investigation.
Investigators examined whether DC Knowles, in August 2020, potentially undermined a serious criminal investigation by sending text messages via WhatsApp to a fellow police officer regarding the identification of a suspect in the case.
They also considered whether he used a personal mobile device to obtain, retain and distribute other sensitive evidential material to another colleague and whether he then attempted to conceal the fact that he had shared the information in this way.
The messages sent by the experienced detective to his colleague included CCTV footage and images and details from the force’s logging system.
At the end of the IOPC’s investigation in April 2021, after assessing WhatsApp messages and a written submission from DC Knowles, IOPC investigators determined that the officer had a case to answer for gross misconduct on all three allegations.
The police disciplinary panel, led by an independent, legally qualified Chair, decided that DC Knowles breached police professional standards relating to honesty, integrity, and orders and instructions.
As a result, the panel decided he should be dismissed without notice.
IOPC Regional Director Derrick Campbell said:
“We took into account the officer’s experience, the deliberateness of his actions, his knowledge of the police policy and the potential erosion of public trust in West Midlands Police, which could all be reasonably regarded as aggravating factors when assessing his conduct.
“Police officers need to communicate swiftly and conduct fast-time investigative actions and are equipped with police-issued phones and mobile devices along with radio equipment to do so safely, in line with procedure. Using a personal phone to share sensitive policing material is contrary to the force’s policy.
“We are advised the officer’s conduct had no impact on the concluded murder investigation, but his actions did carry potential harm. The evidence indicated he actively asked his colleagues to delete the sensitive messaging that he’d shared with them over WhatsApp, as he knew this was a breach of policy. As a result, we concluded that he had a case to answer for gross misconduct.
“Officers have a duty to protect the integrity of an investigation and policies are in place to ensure those who breach these expected standards are held to account.”
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