Met officers dismissed for offensive and discriminatory comments in WhatsApp group

A professional standards investigation examining a year’s worth of social media messages has led to two Metropolitan Police officers being dismissed without notice for highly offensive and discriminatory behaviour including a racist joke about the Duchesss of Sussex in a WhatsApp group.

A misconduct hearing held for PC Sukhdev Jeer and PC Paul Hefford, both attached to Forensic Services, found the allegations proven.

An allegation was also proven for former PC Richard Hammond, previously attached to Met Operations.

Commander Jon Savell, of Professional Standards, said: “These vile messages were shared in 2018 within a closed WhatsApp group between a small group of officers. I hardly need to say it is completely unacceptable for anyone, let alone a police officer, to behave in such a manner. The actions of these three are inexcusable.

“The whole of the Met is focused on rooting out anyone who displays this type of behaviour and lets down the Met and the public we serve.

“Behaviour like this will absolutely not be tolerated and we are driving that message home to our officers and staff at every opportunity.”

The hearing was held for the officers to answer allegations they breached police standards of professional behaviour in respect of discreditable conduct, equality and diversity and challenging and reporting improper conduct.

The officers faced an allegation at the level of gross misconduct that between December 2017 and December 2018, whilst working at Central East Command Unit, they were part of a WhatsApp group on their private phones.

They used the group to exchange messages, memes and other content which was inappropriate, highly offensive and discriminatory. The content was discriminatory on the grounds of sex, race, religion, sexual orientation and disability.

Having considered all the evidence, the panel, led by independent legally qualified chair, Maurice Cohen, found the allegation proven at the level of gross misconduct for PC Jeer and PC Hefford and at the level of misconduct for former PC Hammond.

Former PC Hammond, as an ex officer with a misconduct only finding, received no sanction as the national police conduct regulations relating to former officers are confined to matters of gross misconduct only. Therefore this matter will remain on file.

The officers also faced an allegation at the level of misconduct that they each failed to challenge or report the other members of the group for their behaviour. This allegation was proven for PC Jeer and PC Hefford. It was withdrawn for former PC Hammond.

The officers and former officer had admitted all the allegations at the level of misconduct only.

The messages came to light when former PC Hammond’s phone was examined as part of an unrelated criminal investigation. He was dismissed without notice in October 2021 following a conviction for perverting the course of justice.

Jeer’s barrister Ben Summers had argued that his client should not be dismissed over a “handful of inappropriate jokes” that caused “limited harm”.

Michael Shaw, representing Hefford, said the officer now found his posts “embarrassing and difficult” and had learned a “sad lesson”. He added: “Simply sacking him won’t restore public confidence in the Met.”

Chief Superintendent Marcus Barnett, who leads the Central East Command Unit, said: “I joined the command unit in 2019 and since then I have listened to the community to understand what their concerns are and what we, as their service, need to do to earn their trust and respect.

“This repulsive behaviour understandably damages that trust and I want to apologise to every single member of the public we serve in this area.

“These officers have, rightly, been sacked. I do not want any officer who would engage in this sort of behaviour anywhere near your community. I will be personally emailing everyone who works at Central East to reinforce the message that words matter, respect matters, and every time someone sends this sort of message they cause real hurt.”

PCs Jeer and Hefford will now be added to the Barred List held by the College of Policing. Those appearing on the list cannot be employed by police, local policing bodies (PCCs), the Independent Office for Police Conduct or Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services.

The Met was placed under special measures this week following “systemic” failings.

Mick Ferris

Editor Email: [email protected]