Suffolk police misconduct panel raises concerns over ‘banter’ culture after officer touched colleague’s bottom

Martlesham police investigation centre, where the hearing took place. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Martlesham police investigation centre, where the hearing took place. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk police misconduct panel has called for a review of an “unhealthy and unacceptable culture” in one of the force’s departments after an officer accepted an allegation of inappropriate touching.

The officer, who cannot be named, was alleged to have inappropriately touched a female colleague’s bottom on a handful of occasions between March and June last year, and made comments about her posterior.

He was also alleged to have touched the same colleague’s breasts beneath her clothes after inviting her into his office in July last year, and to have touched her breasts over her clothes.

A statement provided by the complainant as evidence was dismissed, after the misconduct panel decided it would be unfair to deprive the officer of “the only opportunity to challenge the evidence” through cross-examination.

The decision meant there was no evidence to support the other two allegations and they were dropped.

The officer did accept he had touched her bottom on several occasions which amounted to misconduct. Mark Seymour, representing, said it was “banter” and not sexually-motivated.

The panel decided the behaviour warranted a final written warning, which would remain in place for 18 months.

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But chairman of the hearing Steven Evans raised a number of concerns.

“We make it clear that we take a very serious view of this behaviour,” he said.

“There can be no circumstances in the workplace where repeatedly slapping a colleague’s bottom followed by the comments ‘nice arse, tight arse’ can be acceptable.”

Mr Evans said that the panel was concerned from the evidence that the working environment had “an unhealthy and unacceptable culture”, and called for a review of the work setting.

He added others should come forward if they encounter or witness inappropriate behaviour.

Deputy chief constable Steve Jupp said officers were expected to maintain high standards of behaviour, and any breach of this was unacceptable.

He added: “Public confidence in the police depends on those serving with us demonstrating these values each and every day, and with everyone they interact with be it fellow members of staff or members of the public.

“There simply is no room for use of inappropriate language or treatment in the constabulary workplace.”

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