Northumbria Police officer dismissed following social media comments
A police officer from Northumbria Police has been dismissed after gross misconduct was found proven, following an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
Police Constable Lee Scott faced six allegations of gross misconduct after he posted comments on Facebook following the death of George Floyd in May 2020 and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests.
We received a referral from Northumbria Police and began an independent investigation in June 2020.
The allegations covered a number of postings which were considered offensive, inappropriate or discriminatory in nature.
- sharing an image of George Floyd that had been used by Far Right groups
- making homophobic remarks relating to a senior police officer wearing an LGBT lanyard
- making inappropriate comments about a Chief Constable taking the knee during a Black Lives Matter protest.
IOPC investigators compared the images and comments posted against relevant local and national policies.
At the conclusion of our investigation in December, we submitted a report to Northumbria Police with our view that the officer should face gross misconduct proceedings.
A police disciplinary panel, headed by a legally qualified chair, held on Friday 24 September concluded that PC Scott – who was suspended from duty for the duration of this investigation - should be dismissed after the case was proven.
IOPC Regional Director Miranda Biddle said: “There is no place in policing for officers who make offensive comments of any kind, whether on or off duty and whether in a public or private forum.
“We assessed the comments made on Facebook as a whole and concluded that PC Scott had a case to answer for gross misconduct.
“The independent panel has agreed with our findings that PC Scott’s comments showed a clear breach of the professional standards expected of a serving police officer while putting the integrity of Northumbria Police into question – in particular with the Black, Asian and minority ethnic and LGBT communities. His comments were also deemed to have a detrimental impact on the wider public confidence and perception of the force.”
IOPC Director General, Michael Lockwood, wrote to the National Police Chiefs’ Council earlier this year about the sharing of offensive and inappropriate content on social media, asking them to remind forces and officers of their obligations under the police Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Behaviour.
Since the end of the IOPC investigation, Northumbria Police has accepted all our recommendations and have taken action to remind police officers and the wider force of their expected behaviour under the police Code of Ethics and the Equality Act. The force has also taken steps to ensure all staff are aware of the guidance around posting comments and images on social media.
Our learning recommendations were:
- The IOPC recommends that Northumbria Police take steps to ensure all officers and the wider organisation conform to the expectations of their behaviour under the Code of Ethics, whilst on and off duty, and promote a safe and open culture, which makes clear to officers and staff that they are duty bound to challenge and report behaviour that does not align with this Code. This includes challenging and reporting inappropriate posts on social media.
- The IOPC recommends that Northumbria Police take steps to ensure all officers and staff are complying with the Association of Chief Police Officers’ Guidelines on the Safe use of the Internet and Social Media by Police Officers and Police Staff 2013, which is signposted from the College of Policing’s Authorised Professional Practice. They should also make clear to officers and staff that information posted on their private profiles on platforms such as Facebook should conform to these Guidelines.
- The IOPC recommends that Northumbria Police take steps to ensure all officers and the wider organisation conform to the expectations of their behaviour under section 26 of the Equality Act 2010, whilst on and off duty, and promote a safe and open culture which makes clear to officers and staff that they are duty bound to challenge and report behaviour that does not align with this legislation.