Eight Metropolitan Police officers involved in a secret WhatsApp group which sent racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic and disablist messages – including some making fun of Katie Price’s son, Harvey – have been found guilty of gross misconduct.
The WhatsApp group, named “Secret Squirrel S**t”, was active between 2016 and 2018, and was found to have displayed “toxic” and “abhorrent” messages inconsistent with values and standards expected to be upheld by police.
Six of the eight officers are no longer serving after having resigned or being previously dismissed.
They have been named as former sergeant Luke Thomas and former acting sergeant, Luke Allen, together with former PCs Kelsey Buchan, Lee South, Darren Jenner and Carlo Francisco.
PC Glyn Rees and another officer, who has been granted anonymity and referred to only as Officer B, are still serving in the Metropolitan Police.
They are now waiting to learn their fate within the force after the gross misconduct result was announced on the fifth day of a hearing in Southwark, central London, on Thursday.
Legal chairman Christopher McKay described gross misconduct as a “breach of the standards of professional behaviour that is so serious as to justify dismissal”.
Each officer committed gross misconduct by sending messages as well as “failing to challenge or report” the conduct of others in the group.
‘Inappropriate and offensive’
The messages included derogatory remarks about Mr Price, 20, who suffers from autism and Prader-Willis syndrome and is partially sighted.
They included a rhyme which had a “racist tone and refers to his disability”.
The post was a “significant breach of the standard of equality and diversity” and “inappropriate and offensive” to Mr Price, constituting gross misconduct, Mr McKay said.
Former sergeant Thomas, the highest-ranking officer in the group, “appears to have been one of the most active participants” and sent messages mocking Mr Price’s weight.
TV personality Ms Price earlier described how she was “shocked and upset” about the “disgusting” comments.
“We look up to police officers to protect us and I teach my kids to say that police will protect you,” she said.
“I do respect a lot of police out there…they do an amazing job, but to be let down by people like this.”
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Continued service ‘untenable’
Other messages were about the appearance of a junior female officer identified only as Officer A in the hearings – whom Thomas described as “f****** ugly”.
He was the only officer to face a fourth allegation for failure to guide or challenge or take responsibility to promote standards.
Mr McKay described Thomas’s failings as “extremely serious”, with the panel concluding that, given his rank, Thomas “could and should” have closed the WhatsApp group as soon as the “highly inappropriate nature of the messages became apparent”.
Instead, he “became one of the main contributors”.
Daniel Hobbs, acting on behalf of the Met Police, reminded the panel about the work carried out by Baroness Casey to identify shortcomings across the Met Police force.
Mr Hobbs said “work to end discrimination internally has already begun and continued today with the panel’s welcomed findings”.
He said the panel’s findings of gross misconduct “renders continued service untenable” – before urging the panel to consider adding all eight officers to the police bar list.
The outcome of the hearing is due to be announced on Friday.
Learning disability charity Mencap, where Mr Price is an ambassador, condemned the officers’ comments.
A spokesman said: “It’s absolutely appalling that serving police officers have been found guilty of sharing abusive content about vulnerable people, the very same people they have a duty to protect.
“We stand alongside our ambassador Harvey and condemn their actions.”
The charity added that it hoped the disciplinary outcome would “serve as a warning to those who turn a blind eye, or worse partake in bullying”.