Freedom of Information: News

Revealed: Met Police officers kept jobs after sending racist and sexist messages

Cops received only written warnings for sending and posting racist, sexist and offensive messages on social media

Jenna Corderoy
Jenna Corderoy
17 January 2023, 10.08am

Sisters Uncut protest outside the sentencing hearing of Sarah Everard's murderer Wayne Couzens


Lucy North/Alamy Live News

  • This story was originally published in November 2022. We are sharing it again in the wake of Met Police officer PC David Carrick’s unmasking as a serial rapist.

Fresh disclosures about Met Police officers sending racist and sexist messages have come to light – just hours after two cops were given jail sentences for joking about rape and domestic violence.

The latest revelations, uncovered by openDemocracy follow a 12-month battle by the UK’s biggest police force to keep the details secret. In some cases, they relate to officers who kept their jobs despite their misconduct.

It comes after PC Jonathon Cobban, 35, and former cop Joel Borders, 45, were convicted of sharing grossly offensive messages in a WhatsApp group with Wayne Couzens, the serving officer who raped and murdered Sarah Everard in south London in 2021. Both had pleaded not guilty.

Scotland Yard has now handed openDemocracy heavily redacted documents that show officers received only “final written warnings” for sending “inappropriate images” and “sexist” messages on WhatsApp. The force had initially refused our Freedom of Information request, but disclosed some limited information after we complained to the data watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Help us uncover the truth about Covid-19

The Covid-19 public inquiry is a historic chance to find out what really happened.

The documents show:

In 2020, a WhatsApp message was “deemed to be offensive on the basis of ‘racism’”. This resulted in a final written warning.

Also that year, an officer “sent inappropriate images that are racist, sexist and offensive via a whatsapp group”. The officer received a final written warning.

Another received the same sanction for posting “sexually explicit and inappropriate posts” which “can be accessed and viewed by members of the public”.

Others received written warnings for “inappropriate behaviour”, “derogatory comments” and using social media “to post provocative videos and text”.

In 2019, it was alleged that an officer sent “messages of a sexual nature via instagram”, which resulted in dismissal without notice.

Kevin Blowe from police monitoring group Netpol said the findings showed the Met operated “to its own flawed standards".

"If this was teachers or council workers, such conduct would lead to an individual's immediate dismissal for the damage it causes to an employer's reputation," he told openDemocracy. “The only consistency [the Met] has adopted has been a willingness to almost always give its officers another chance for racist and misogynist behaviour.”

He added: “What happens in closed WhatsApp or Telegram groups is far less likely to lead to disciplinary action, as long as the culture of officers protecting each other remains unchallenged.”

Earlier this week, the police watchdog published the critical findings of a probe into police vetting arrangements and misogyny following Everard’s murder.

His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) examined a sample of vetting files from eight police forces and found that, in 131 cases, the decision to clear officers to serve was “questionable at best”. The watchdog found officers and staff with criminal records, or suspicions that they had committed crime, or had given false or incomplete information to vetting units.

The new Met Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley, who replaced Dame Cressida Dick, vowed that he would tackle racism and misogyny among officers.

Following HMICFRS’s report, the Met’s assistant commissioner Barbara Gray said: “Being ruthless in ridding the Met of those who corrupt our integrity is central to Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley’s vision of reform.

“We are setting clear expectations of behaviour and are developing data and technology to identify those who are not fit to serve. We will succeed with the vast majority of our honest and dedicated officers and staff. We welcome the HMICFRS report and will carefully consider the opportunities for learning and improvement.”

Why should you care about freedom of information?

From coronation budgets to secretive government units, journalists have used the Freedom of Information Act to expose corruption and incompetence in high places. Tony Blair regrets ever giving us this right. Today's UK government is giving fewer and fewer transparency responses, and doing it more slowly. But would better transparency give us better government? And how can we get it?

Join our experts for a free live discussion at 5pm UK time on 15 June.

Hear from:

Claire Miller Data journalism and FOI expert
Martin Rosenbaum Author of ‘Freedom of Information: A Practical Guidebook’; former BBC political journalist
Jenna Corderoy Investigative reporter at openDemocracy and visiting lecturer at City University, London
Chair: Ramzy Alwakeel Head of news at openDemocracy

We’ve got a newsletter for everyone

Whatever you’re interested in, there’s a free openDemocracy newsletter for you.

Had enough of ‘alternative facts’? openDemocracy is different Join the conversation: get our weekly email


We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData