Police officer dismissed for sending inappropriate messages to vulnerable woman
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A police officer has been sacked for exchanging inappropriate WhatsApp messages with a vulnerable woman.
An Accelerated Misconduct Hearing held at Greater Manchester Police HQ on 19 September 2023 heard that PC Robert Whitehead exchanged the messages on his work mobile after creating a care plan for the woman, who had previously been reported missing.
Chief Constable Stephen Watson, who chaired the hearing, said PC Whitehead was aware that Miss A was vulnerable but still ‘engaged in flirtatious messaging’ in November 2022.
The messaging then switched to his personal phone, with PC Whitehead subsequently asking Miss A to delete all the messages and photos exchanged between them.
Miss A threatened to inform GMP about the messages and reported the exchanges, at which point PC Whitehead was suspended.
Julian King told the hearing that his client accepted his actions were ‘misjudged’ but that ‘he had not been pursuing a sexual or romantic relationship’ with Miss A.
CC Watson dismissed PC Whitehead without notice, finding his actions breached the standards of integrity and professional behaviour and that it amounted to gross misconduct.
He added: “While much of the messaging could amount to an officer checking on a vulnerable female’s safety and wellbeing, there were messages that were grossly inappropriate and of a sexual nature.
“Mr Whitehead knew his actions were inappropriate having chosen to swap his police issue mobile to his personal number.
“He should have known that it was entirely inappropriate and an abuse of power and falls far below the behaviours and standards that the public expects.”
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) carried out an investigation into PC Whitehead's conduct following a referral from GMP.
PC Whitehead, who was based at Tameside, was also added to the College of Policing Barred List.
Detective Chief Superintendent Michael Allen, of GMP’s Professional Standards Branch, said: “Every day and night, officers from GMP put on their uniforms to protect the vulnerable people in our communities from harm.
"Whitehead failed in that very duty, seriously abusing his privileged position by communicating with a vulnerable female in a grossly improper way, thus exposing her to further harm.
"I thank the IOPC for its investigation having referred this case to them, producing quality evidence that GMP's Professional Standards Branch used to take Whitehead to an accelerated misconduct hearing.
"Having abused his position by departing from the highest standards of professional behaviour that all police officers must embody, it is right that he has been dismissed from the force and barred from ever working in policing again.
"He will no longer will be able to put on a uniform nor carry a warrant card, and GMP are a better police service without him.
"No-one in GMP will tolerate working alongside someone who behaves in such a corrupt way and this is why the Chief Constable has stripped Whitehead of his powers, privileges and his employment."