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London police officers charged with offensive WhatsApp messages

LONDON – Three London police officers have been charged with criminally sending “severely offensive messages”, a police watchdog announced on Thursday, following an investigation begun in the wake of the kidnapping. rape and murder Sarah Everard by a fellow officer.

Charges come in a turbulent times for the London Metropolitan Police Service: Last week, force leader resigns under pressure after another series of troubling messages sent by police officers appeared.

Although the product of an investigation that emerged in the wake of Ms Everard’s murder, the charges announced Thursday do not appear to be related specifically to that case. The allegations involve messages that investigators allege were sent two years earlier, between April and August 2019. Investigators did not disclose the contents of the messages.

Later three officers charged on Thursday – none of them have been named – two are currently serving in the force and the other is a former officer, according to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, an official watchdog. Its investigation led to charges, brought by the Crown Prosecution Service.

A hearing is scheduled for March for the officers. The Metropolitan Police Department said that two active-duty officers have been suspended.

The agency said in a statement that the allegations stemmed from an investigation into the phone records of Wayne Couzensthe officer who killed Ms. Everard in March 2021. The messages were recovered from a mobile phone discovered during the police investigation into Ms. Everard’s murder, the watchdog said earlier. .

Mr Couzens served as a London police officer in March 2021 when he used his police identification card and other official devices to make a fake arrest and handcuff Ms Everard as she went walk home during the pandemic.

He sexually assaulted her, and seven days later, her charred body was found stuffed in green trash bags in the woods dozens of miles from London. Mr. Couzens pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison.

The murder of Mrs. Everard arouse a national movement demanding better protection for women, and issued a call for reform in the police service, with a particular focus on detecting crooks.

At the end of last year, the government announce a public investigation into the force, with the aim of probing whether opportunities to stop Mr. Couzens have been missed, and addressing concerns about the recruitment process.

The police body, the largest in the UK, has also published an independent review of its own standards and culture.

But the Metropolitan Police Department has continued to be embroiled in controversy in the months since. Last year, two police officers sentenced to 33 months in prison to take pictures of the bodies of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, two sisters who were killed in a park in London in June 2020 and send them to multiple people on the encrypted WhatsApp messaging service.

Two weeks ago, a damned report that detailed patterns of deviant behavior and bullying in the force, and revealed more troubling WhatsApp messages with racist and disparaging comments about women.

Following the report, Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police Service commissioner, resigned under intense pressure from London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Mr Khan insists that more needs to be done to remove the police force from a problematic culture to restore public trust.

“It has to be acknowledged that there are deep cultural issues,” Mr Khan said in remarks to LBC radio on Thursday. “We’re not talking about unconscious bias, we’re not talking about unintentional bias, we’re talking about overt racism, sexism, skewed thinking, homophobia. homosexuality, discrimination and the like.”

Several police experts have noted that the new scrutiny of the police service following a series of critical errors means more incidents like this are likely to come to light. Others say the allegations could be a sign that the light of bad guys in the force is having an impact.

Jolyon Maugham, executive director of the Good Law Project, a governance watchdog, wrote in a Twitter post in response to the news on some level. “On another level, it shows how the public’s focus and campaign on police misconduct can finally begin to bear fruit.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/17/world/london-police-everard-whatsapp-charges.html London police officers charged with offensive WhatsApp messages

Fry Electronics Team

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