Three Hampshire police officers have been sacked after covert listening devices, placed in their office after an anonymous tip-off from a colleague, recorded them using ‘discriminatory comments’.
Following a misconduct hearing, DS Greg Willcox, DS Oliver Lage and PC James Oldfield were dismissed immediately.
Retired DI Timothy Ireson and former PC Craig Bannerman would have been dismissed from the force had they not of already left the police and PC Andrew Ferguson will receive a final written warning.
All of the officers worked in Hampshire Constabulary’s Serious & Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) in Basingstoke.
An investigation into the officer’s conduct was launched after an anonymous tip-off was made via an internal reporting system.
Such confidential reporting systems allow officers to report their colleagues if they feel that their conduct is not in line with strict professional standards.
Following the tip-off, an internal investigation was launched, which led to officers being bugged between 9 March and 2 April 2018.
As a result of the recordings from the covert recording devices, the officers faced a misconduct hearing that found they had committed ‘gross misconduct’ with their “abhorrent” comments.
John Bassett, the independent panel’s legally qualified chair, said:
“Police officers, whether individually or as a unit, cannot pick and choose which of the standards they will abide by, in particular, it is not open to members of a particular unit to disregard some of the standards in the belief that this makes them more of an effective or cohesive unit.
“In the panel’s opinion, the matters it has found proved are the antithesis of what the public expects and what is clearly set out in the standards of public behaviour.
“The conduct in question was shameful.”
Hampshire’s Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney said
‘This case came about following an anonymous report through the force’s confidential reporting system.
‘We launched an internal investigation which included a decision to conduct convert monitoring within the SOCU North office at the Northern Police Investigation Centre.
‘During that time, discriminatory comments were captured that were neither challenged or reported.
‘During the hearing, the Panel heard a catalogue of sexist, racist, homophobic and ableist language and commentary that has rightly shocked us all and understandably left people with many questions about how this has been allowed to happen.
‘I have always said that policing is built upon the values of professionalism, compassion, courage and integrity and the public have a right to expect the highest standards from the officers and staff who are entrusted to keep them safe.
‘These officers have failed to deliver on the promise they made to uphold fundamental human rights and accord equal respect to all people, the oath they declared when they took the office of constable.
‘Policing has never before been under so much appropriate scrutiny to ensure an inclusive environment for all our officers and staff to flourish and bring their best.
‘There is no place in my force, or in policing more widely, for those who do not live up to this standard.
‘These behaviours fell far short of those expected by me.
‘These officers have undermined the trust and confidence of our communities and damaged the reputations of their colleagues who do treat people with respect and uphold the values and standards quite rightly expected by those we police.
‘I would hope that the public have seen that we don’t accept this type of behaviour, that when it is raised that we will take action and we will be open and transparent about that, no matter how difficult that may be.
Jason Beer QC, representing Hampshire Constabulary, told the hearing:
“It was a unit that was plain nasty that displayed attitudes towards groups and communities that police officers are called upon to protect.
“Among the conversations recorded were comments which included women being referred to as “sl**s” and “whores”, and suggestions the only black officer in the unit had arrived from Africa in a crate.
“In addition, “explicit and highly offensive” fake pornographic images of the royal family were also posted on a work WhatsApp group”.
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