South Yorkshire Police officer dismissed after sharing images of detainees via WhatsApp

Published: 02 Jun 2023

A South Yorkshire Police officer has been dismissed without notice following an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation into operational images being shared without any policing purpose.

Our investigation discovered that PC Owen Davies shared images of people in police custody using his personal mobile phone. He sent them, along with inappropriate and derogatory comments about the individuals, via WhatsApp to current and former colleagues.

Following a referral from South Yorkshire Police, we began an independent investigation in November 2020 which concluded in February 2022. We found the officer may have breached the standards of professional behaviour in respect of his confidentiality, integrity, and conduct.

The force agreed he had a case to answer for gross misconduct and arranged disciplinary proceedings. An independently chaired panel following a three-day hearing, which finished today (2 June), found gross misconduct proven against PC Davies.

During our investigation into conduct allegations that came to light as part of evidence gathered for a separate IOPC investigation, we examined the officer’s personal mobile phone and carried out detailed analytical work to identify any operational policing images or images of concern.

PC Davies shared images of people who had been detained in a police cell, and in other settings such as a hospital, with colleagues. The WhatsApp exchanges with officers in the group also showed he made offensive comments about those in the pictures.

Analysis of PC Davies’s mobile also revealed he had shared personal details about someone who was convicted of a crime; details of a hate crime report; and an image, taken from body-worn video footage, of an officer with an unknown woman.

The officer had completed training by the force on storing and sharing operational policing material so was aware of what was expected of him as an officer.

IOPC Regional Director Emily Barry said: “PC Davies showed appalling judgement and a complete disregard of the policy and procedures in relation to how he shared confidential policing material. It was entirely inappropriate and risked seriously undermining public confidence in the police.

“PC Davies’s decisions to disclose images of suspects connected to serious criminal offences not only breached the applicable policies and procedures but could have undermined ongoing criminal investigations.

“We welcome the panel’s decision, which serves as a reminder that this behaviour is not treated lightly and can result in serious consequences for any officers involved.”

  • South Yorkshire Police
  • Corruption and abuse of power