Greater Manchester Police officers disciplined over WhatsApp group messages


The Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) launched an investigation into a group of Greater Manchester Police officers during a separate enquiry into PC Aaron Jones, a former officer who served with the same force and offered to supply illegal steroids on the cross-platform messaging service, WhatsApp.

Jones was sentenced to a 12-month community order at Liverpool Crown Court in June 2022, after admitting two counts of offering to supply Class C drugs, and dismissed from GMP in December that year.

The police watchdog has reported that a WhatsApp group found on Jones’ mobile phone, which included a number of serving police officers as members, contained what they characterise as “inexcusable and abhorrent” messages.

An spokesperson said the IOPC had found messages that “referenced drug use” as well as “derogatory comments which did not appear to be challenged by any of the officers within the group”.

Adding: “Examples included racist comments about people attending a festival celebrating Eid in Manchester, ableist comments about people with autism and photos shared of medication which appeared to be steroids.”

A misconduct panel held at force HQ on 12th April, 2023 heard that at least six male police officers were members of the WhatsApp group dubbed ‘The Dispensables’ and subtitled ‘the Gods of North Manchester who risk their lives every day to f*** jobs off’.

PC Jones and PC Ashley Feest, who were part of that group, admitted their behaviour amounted to gross misconduct at the disciplinary hearing and were dismissed.

PC Rebekah Kelly, who was not in the group, was found to have failed to report racist messages sent to her. She argued her behaviour did not amount to gross misconduct, but was dismissed without notice.

Those three dismissed officers were also added to the College of Policing‘s Barred List.

A fourth officer, identified by the IOPC as PC Graham Atkinson, also a member of the WhatsApp group, received a final written warning. He admitted breaching the standards of behaviour, also at the level of gross misconduct.

A written warning was handed to another unnamed member of the group while management advice was the sanction determined in the case of the sixth officer disciplined as part of the same investigation.

The IOPC concluded by saying that three other GMP officers, forming part of the same investigation, were cleared of wrongdoing,

Their Regional Director, Catherine Bates, commented:

“Messages sent via WhatsApp and on any form of social media cannot be a hiding place for officers with these types of views.

“Behaviour of this nature seriously undermines public confidence in policing. It is part of our role, and for police forces themselves, to ensure that it is rooted out and those responsible are held to account for their actions.

“The outcome sends a clear message that the use and failure to challenge offensive language is wholly unacceptable.”

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Page last updated Friday 14th April, 2023 at 0720hrs

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Picture credits: GMP

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Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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