Some police officers "should never have worn the uniform" says county's crime boss as misconduct figures are revealed
West Yorkshire Police has “recruited people who should never have worn the uniform” admit crime leaders as figures reveal that more than ten officers have been dismissed in the last five years for misconduct offences which range from taking a packet of jaffa cakes from a tuck shop, selling uniform on ebay and using excessive force on suspects.
Further figures show that in the last five years, 40 cases have been logged with West Yorkshire Police’s (WYP) Professional Standard Department in relation to sexual assault/harassment and misconduct charges against members of police force, both internally and externally.
Logs reveal that in July this year an officer was sacked after inappropriately touching six colleagues at a social event. A panel hearing proved five allegations which amounted to gross misconduct.
At a separate hearing, also in July, another officer was dismissed without notice after uploading images of himself to swingers website. In one picture he was shown wearing police uniform and a warrant card, and in another, showing his naked torso and genitalia. In a further unconnected matter, the former officer attended a house following a report the caller had been subject of a controlling and coercive relationship and he started an intimate personal relationship with them.
Outcomes of other hearings also show an officer was sacked without notice after he was on duty and attended an incident of anti-social disorder and, while speaking with two women, involved made inappropriate sexual comments, propositioned one for sex and suggested she get a third person involved for a threesome.
In 2020, there were 12 sexual assault/harassment and misconduct charges against members of the police force, compared with seven for 2019 and five for 2018.
In non-sexual cases, the latest figures available (September 2021) reveal there had been 23 incidents of misconduct in public office reported in the last five years.
Recently an officer was dismissed for Discreditable Conduct after taking two packets of Jaffa Cakes from a police station tuck shop and not leaving enough money to pay for them and an officer, deployed to the force’s off-road motorcycle team, was sacked without notice after it was proved he had taken police issue kit, such as bike boots, and sold them on ebay.
Scrutiny of police forces has been exacerbated following the case of Sarah Everard who was abducted, raped and murdered by Wayne Couzens - a serving officer with The Metropolitan Police.
A recent survey by Yougov found that 47 per cent of women and 40 per cent men said trust in the police had decreased since this case.
Alison Lowe is the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime in West Yorkshire. In an exclusive interview with the Yorkshire Evening Post, she said people’s “faith has been shaken”.
She said: “What happened with Wayne Couzens and Sarah Everard is that communities that have traditionally always trusted the police - their faith has been shaken.
“We have had communities that have never trusted the police and that has never changed. Black, gypsy, refugee and asylum seeker communities - we have always had groups or communities who have been questioning of the legitimacy of policing - that has been about their lived experience.
“But, the police relied on these middle-class white communities, who are in the majority, of having their trust and the Sarah Everard case massively brought that into question.”
Ms Lowe went on to say that the way The Met works and the way WYP operates are hugely different but the profile of the capital’s police force, makes WYP’s campaign for legitimacy more difficult.
She explained: “There are 43 police forces, each police force operates differently. They have their own ways of doing things
“The difference between The Met and WYP is the openness and the honesty of our chief constable about mistakes that we make and what we need to do different.
It has such a massive profile that makes it harder for forces like WYP who are really trying to build that legitimacy. That is a big thing in policing, you can only police by consent if the public believe in your legitimacy.”
Some of the measures that WYP has implemented to improve public confidence and make the force accountable are that officers wear body cameras that are kept on and recording at all times and that police armed response vehicles are fitted with dashcams.
As the force’s fleet of police cars gets replaced, every new car will have a dash cam fitted as standard.
Ms Lowe took up the role as the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime (DMPC) in West Yorkshire after being nominated by Tracy Brabin, who was elected Mayor of West Yorkshire in May 2021.
While a whistle-blowing hotline that is anonymous and confidential for all new recruits with the aim to monitor trends of culture of behaviour by individuals or department had already been set up, Ms Lowe requested specifically that women and black recruits will be given separate sessions on how to use that service during their induction processes.
That follows a “massively intensive” recruitment process which sees potential officers subject to interviews, vetting, psychology and aptitude tests, checks on their family, background, associations and bank accounts - and they are done again after three years and periodically after that.
Referring to the misconduct statistics she said: “We all know that no matter what processes you have got and how good you think it is, you are only as strong as your weakest link. Clever people can work the system so you need to have as many things as you can.
“The numbers mean that the system is working. We recruited people who we later found should never have worn the uniform. But, what we can do is have these safe-guards in place to pick them up at the earliest juncture.
“When it comes to a question of trust, WYP, as you have seen in recent news, always acts to preserve legitimacy to the public. If they can’t be seen as part of the solution, you can’t do your job.”
She stressed that it was important for the public to know that all complaints are taken seriously and that the majority of officers in West Yorkshire Police had been devastated by the Sarah Everard case and the damage that has done to public confidence.
Ms Lowe added: “If somebody is suspected of doing wrong, the public can make complaints. We have protocol and processes to investigate and the ability to dismiss where people have fallen short of the standard. It is so important for the public to know that every complaint is taken seriously.
“It is the most rewarding job in the world and the worst job in the world. Police officers get kicked and spat at and called this and that. How many other jobs can you think of where you face this on a daily basis or that you might not come home? The vast majority of people in the police are there for good. They want to make a difference, protect the communities they serve and make the world a better place.”
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