West Yorkshire Police officer dismissed over WhatsApp messages
A West Yorkshire Police (WYP) officer involved in a WhatsApp conversation where racist and misogynistic messages were shared has been dismissed without notice following a directed Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation.
The investigation, carried out by WYP under our direction, looked at messages sent and received by PC Louis Hepplestone, who was based in Kirklees.
We received a referral from the force after a separate directed IOPC investigation found evidence of concerning phone messages between PC Hepplestone and a colleague.
As part of the separate investigation, messages were obtained from the phone of Detention Officer William Loyd-Hughes. He was sentenced earlier this year over offensive social media posts, including racist material. A disciplinary hearing subsequently found he would have been dismissed had he not already resigned.
The messages obtained from the phone showed a WhatsApp conversation between Loyd-Hughes and PC Hepplestone, which began before they joined WYP.
The evidence showed that even after becoming a police officer, PC Hepplestone failed to challenge offensive messages containing racists comments and a joke about rape. He also sent messages referring to female colleagues that were considered misogynistic.
The messages also showed PC Hepplestone was aware of Loyd-Hughes’ racist views prior to him joining the force as a detention officer. PC Hepplestone failed to raise concerns about this once Loyd-Hughes became a WYP employee.
Upon receiving the investigator’s report, we determined PC Hepplestone had a case to answer for gross misconduct in respect of alleged breaches of the police standards of professional behaviour regarding: authority, respect and courtesy; equality and diversity; discreditable conduct; and challenging and reporting improper conduct.
At a gross misconduct hearing, which concluded on Friday (3 November), PC Hepplestone admitted sending and responding to offensive messages, as well as his failure to report the messages he received.
The panel found the case proven at the level of gross misconduct and he was dismissed without notice.
IOPC Regional Director Emily Barry said: “PC Hepplestone was part of a conversation in which vile and offensive messages were sent. His failure to challenge blatantly racist views or a joke about rape were a complete betrayal of the values he should have been upholding as a police officer.
“This investigation, carried out by WYP and directed by the IOPC, ensured he was held accountable for his actions. As a result he has been dismissed and barred from working in policing in future.
“Behaviour like this undermines the efforts of the vast majority of officers, who work incredibly hard in challenging circumstances to keep us safe. That is why it is so important for colleagues to challenge and report such views where they come across them.”