Five Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officers who sent racist, misogynistic and homophobic text messages have received final written warnings following an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation.
We launched an investigation in January 2018 following a voluntary referral by the MPS after mobile phone messages were accidentally disclosed to third parties as part of a separate Surrey Police force investigation. None of the officers were connected to the Surrey Police investigation, however one of the officers’ phones had been recovered as part of a search of a suspect’s premises.
The allegations related to PC Edward Bengree, aged 34, PC Christopher Davey, aged 34, PC Matthew Hewett, aged 47, PC David Donovan, aged 39 and DC John Taylor, aged 33. Between 2009 and 2011 the officers exchanged text messages which contained offensive references to people with disabilities, derogatory references to women, and jokes about rape, paedophilia, racism and homophobia.
The messages also suggested that PC Bengree sought to establish an inappropriate relationship with a vulnerable, female member of the public he had met whilst on duty and that he may have accessed confidential information about the female for non-policing purposes. His mobile phone also contained videos and audio files made of policing interactions with members of the public which were recorded on a personal device without their knowledge or consent.
We passed our findings to the MPS in June 2019. The MPS then scheduled an independent misconduct hearing, presided over by an independent legally qualified chair, an independent person appointed by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and a Police Superintendent, which took place 24 November – 4 December 2020.
The panel found PC Bengree’s conduct in audio and video recording members of the public, attempting to establish a personal relationship with a victim of crime, and failing to challenge and report the inappropriate text messages he received from DC Taylor, PC Davey, PC Hewett and PC Donovan was assessed as gross misconduct. He received a final written warning.
PC Donovan and PC Hewett’s conduct in sending PC Bengree inappropriate messages related to race, disability, and rape was assessed by the panel as gross misconduct. Both received a final written warning.
PC Davey and PC Taylor’s conduct in exchanging inappropriate messages with PC Bengree, which included derogatory terms for women, was assessed by the panel as misconduct. Both received written warnings.
Another officer was also found to have a case to answer for misconduct in November 2018 and received management action.
IOPC Regional Director Sal Naseem said: “The evidence found during our investigation called into question the officers’ ability to impartially and properly discharge their duties and corrodes the public’s confidence and trust in policing. Use of racist, misogynistic and homophobic behaviour or language and rape culture has no place in policing, or any organisation. The vast majority of police officers uphold professional standards and demonstrate respectful behaviour. This was clearly not the case in this matter.
“Where there is concern that a police officer or member of policing staff may have behaved in a way or used language that is discriminatory, it is only right that it is investigated, and their actions are held to account. This sends a clear warning that this type of behaviour and language is unacceptable.”