Two Metropolitan Police officers allegedly involved in a focus group including Wayne Couzens exchanging suspected misogynistic and racist messages were left on duty after being placed under criminal investigation, the Guardian has learned.
The two Met officers were said to have been part of a WhatsApp group involving three-force agents that is under investigation after Couzens’ phone was seized following his arrest for the murder of Sarah Everard in March.
The Met’s decision contrasts with the actions of other forces, which decided to suspend their officers – who were facing less serious allegations – removing them from their workplaces while the investigation continues.
Two former police chiefs criticized the move, which emerged as the Met reeling from revelations how Couzens abused his position to kidnap and kill Everard.
Sue Fish, a former Nottinghamshire Police Chief, said: “It is beyond belief. He sends the most appalling message. This clearly shows that the Met doesn’t understand… doesn’t understand seriousness. “
The Met said its officers, who are under investigation, have been assigned restricted duties.
In total, two officers and a former Met officer are under criminal investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct over the group of messages. Another Met officer is under investigation for possible disciplinary and serious misconduct, as is an officer from the Norfolk Forces and another from the Civilian Nuclear Police, with whom Couzens served until his transfer to the Met in 2018.
Messages on the WhatsApp group implicating police officers included language allegedly offensive and abusive towards women. The messages recovered so far by investigators began in March 2019, two years before Couzens murdered Everard.
Brian Paddick, former deputy deputy commissioner of the Met and now home affairs critic for the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, said his old force might not appear to be taking the issues seriously enough.
“If I was still at the Met, I would look for every opportunity to reassure women in particular that we take this very seriously, and that doesn’t seem to be the message the Met is sending right now,” he said. declared.
A spokesperson for Norfolk Police said: ‘We are fully cooperating with the Independent Office for the Conduct of the Police in their investigation. We can confirm that the officer has been suspended from duty while the allegations are investigated. “
The Civil Nuclear Gendarmerie (CNC) confirmed that one of its agents was under investigation by the IOPC for belonging to the group.
“The officer in question was suspended from his duties in August as soon as we learned of the IOPC Fund’s investigation. The CNC decided that since these allegations concerned the behavior of this officer, he should be suspended from his duties. There is no distinction between a criminal investigation or an investigation focused solely on behavior, each case is dealt with subjectively on a case-by-case basis.
The IOPC said of its investigation: “They are under investigation for serious misconduct for allegedly sending messages of a discriminatory and / or inappropriate nature, and for allegedly failing to challenge messages sent by them. others.
“Two of the MPS [Met] the agents and the former MPS agent were also informed that they were under criminal investigation for misuse of the public electronic communications network under section 127 of the Communications Act.
Fish said the Met needed to do more to restore trust with the public, which she said had been “shattered.”
The CNC said it had found no evidence that Couzens was nicknamed “the rapist” by colleagues in the force. A spokesperson said: “The CNC has not registered any concerns about his conduct raised by colleagues and no complaints or allegations registered against him. To date, I don’t think the CNC or the Met have been able to find any confirmation that this was indeed a name used to describe it by colleagues.