Eleven serving police officers are being investigated over a string of claims including violence towards women, exploiting vulnerable people, steroid use and racist and misogynistic language and behaviour.
The wide-ranging investigation was announced by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
Last year, it originally announced an inquiry into claims an officer had sex with a civilian in a room at Charing Cross police station in central London in February 2018.
The IOPC said the initial inquiry had expanded “considerably” after the examination of alleged phone messages and social media exchanges between the Metropolitan police officers.
The Guardian understands that one officer is being investigated over claims of violence towards a female member of the public while off duty.
The investigation started with a Met internal inquiry into claims of malicious communication and harassment by a constable. That led to the examination of the officers’ personal phones and unearthed text messages and social media material of concern to investigators.
The investigation was passed to the IOPC and has mushroomed to cover nine constables and two sergeants who were based at two central London police stations – Charing Cross and West End Central. One officer under investigation is female and the rest are men.
The Met said:
“Further analysis of those messages highlighted a range of concerning behaviours. This led to the IOPC expanding its investigation to include a number of allegations relating to the wider culture, working practices and supervision within a unit, now disbanded, at Charing Cross police station between 2015 and 2017.”
The officers under investigation were believed to be part of an “Impact” squad, which has since been broken up. It was intended to crack down on crime in the booming night-time economy in and around central London’s bars and clubs, copying tactics used in New York.
The force said four officers, three PCs and a sergeant, were on restricted duties, and one PC was suspended. An 11th officer, no longer working for the Met, is also to be placed under investigation.
The IOPC said the allegations it is investigating were:
- Bullying and inappropriate behaviour towards other officers based at Charing Cross, including sending threatening and malicious messages.
- Violence towards women and taking advantage of vulnerable people.
- The use of controlled substances including steroids and “the potential behavioural impact of taking these substances”.
The IOPC said officers had been subjected to drug-testing because of these claims. Further allegations include perverting the course of justice by deleting messages relevant to a criminal investigation.
The IOPC said it had obtained warrants to carry out two searches relating to these allegations and during these, their investigators had seized electronic devices they believed were used by the officers.
Other allegations relate to the use of racist, misogynistic and other discriminatory language and behaviour, as well as failing to report wrongdoing.
The IOPC said the allegations did not apply to all the officers, and added the officers had been interviewed by their investigators.
The IOPC regional director Sal Naseem appealed for police officers to come forward and inform on their colleagues if they suspect wrongdoing.
“These are very serious allegations and it is vital for public confidence that these are independently investigated. We are committed to using our enforcement powers to root out officers whose conduct undermines the public’s confidence in policing and who should not be wearing the uniform.”
The Met said it was cooperating fully with the IOPC investigation and added:
“The inappropriate behaviours in this matter appear to have been displayed through text messages and the use of social media apps.
“While the large majority of staff are responsible in their use of social media, the Metropolitan Police Service has issued guidance to all staff around the expectation that they and colleagues maintain the professional standards expected of them as a member of the Met at all times.
“Officers and staff also have a duty to report, challenge and take action against colleagues where they believe those standards have fallen.”
Main image copyright: Michael Stephens/PA
Written by: Vikram Dodd