Alleged to have distributed inappropriate image
A Devon and Cornwall Police sergeant is under criminal investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) for allegedly distributing an inappropriate image among a WhatsApp group.
The sergeant is also being investigated for gross misconduct for apparently sharing the altered image on 30 May of George Floyd’s arrest in Minneapolis.
The WhatsApp group included a number of police officers and staff. Some other members of the group are also being investigated for their alleged response to the image or their apparent failure to report the matter. The serving of any misconduct notices will be kept under review. The IOPC's investigation follows a mandatory referral from Devon and Cornwall Police after one of the WhatsApp group members reported the image to their force manager.
Its regional director Catrin Evans said: “It will be of considerable public concern that such an image was apparently shared among colleagues by a serving police officer. We are criminally investigating the sergeant who allegedly shared the image, and examining the conduct of some others involved in the group.
“Our investigators will be considering whether the sharing of this image was motivated by racial discrimination. Devon and Cornwall Police has rightly promptly referred it to the IOPC, and I would like to assure people we are conducting a thorough and independent investigation.”
A criminal investigation does not mean criminal charges will necessarily follow. The serving of misconduct notices advises an individual their conduct is subject to investigation and does not necessarily imply guilt.
In Monday's Guardian, assistant chief constable Jim Nye, said the force: “expects the highest standards of behaviour from all its staff when on and off duty at all times. This matter was quickly brought to light internally by a member of staff and reported to a Devon and Cornwall police manager. A proactive referral was then made to the IOPC at the earliest opportunity. As an interim measure Devon and Cornwall police has chosen to suspend a police sergeant involved in the investigation.”
He added: “Devon and Cornwall police wholly appreciate the concern our communities will have regarding an investigation of this kind. I would reassure them that I, and the chief constable, will do everything possible to ensure the matter is dealt with effectively and in a timely manner.”
Devon and Cornwall Police has also referred itself for independent investigation into the death of a man who died in custody recently at Torquay police station. Video emerged this week of a previous arrest of Simeon Francis in which he could heard saying: "I can't breathe" - words that have since taken on global significance following the killing of American George Floyd by a US police officer.