West Midlands PCSO abused position to target shop assistant
A West Midlands Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) who sent inappropriate sexual messages to a shop assistant he met through work would have been dismissed had he not resigned, a disciplinary panel ruled. The outcome follows an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
At a hearing organised by the force yesterday (Wednesday 11 October) gross misconduct allegations were proven against the PCSO, who was found to have breached police professional standards of behaviour for honesty and integrity; discreditable conduct; authority, respect and courtesy; and work and responsibilities.
Our investigation began in March 2021 after West Midlands Police referred a complaint from a woman about the conduct of the PCSO, who began regularly visiting the shop where she worked while he was on duty.
Evidence gathered by our investigators indicated that the woman felt obliged to give the PCSO her number when he asked for it, because he worked for the police. He sent her flirtatious messages complimenting pictures of her on social media and suggesting they should date. Messages of a sexual nature were also sent by him.
We were also told by the woman’s colleagues that she would hide behind the counter or at the back of the shop to avoid the PCSO when he went in.
After the woman made it clear that she was not interested in having a sexual relationship with the PCSO, and sent him information confirming she was vulnerable, he initially broke off contact. However several weeks later he resumed, and sent her more inappropriate messages.
IOPC Regional Director for the West Midlands, Derrick Campbell, said: “Officers receive guidance on maintaining a professional boundary and that makes it clear they should not engage in, or pursue, a sexual or improper emotional relationship with members of the public they come into contact with through their work.
“Abuse of police powers for sexual purpose has a profound impact on victims and an aggravating feature of this case is that the PCSO continued to send sexualised messages even after the woman had made it clear she was vulnerable.
“Such behaviour is a breach of the public’s trust and also has the potential to reflect negatively on police colleagues, as well as impacting on the professional relationships they have with the communities they serve.”
During the IOPC’s investigation, completed in July last year (2022), the PCSO was interviewed by us under criminal caution. We obtained statements from the woman’s work colleagues and officers who worked with the PCSO. A file of evidence was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service which decided not to bring charges.
Our investigators also accessed data from the PCSO’s personal mobile phones, reviewed screenshots from the woman’s phone, and CCTV footage from the shop where she worked.