April 19, 2024
Six officers from the London Metropolitan Police were responsible for 'grossly offensive racist messages' that led to criminal charges being filed against them, the BBC reported.

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London’s vaunted Metropolitan Police Service is grappling with a blight that’s been affecting police departments in the United States, including in the Bay Area: Racism among its ranks that has been exposed by secret text messages shared among officers.

In a sign that racism has roiled in the highest ranks of the Metropolitan Police, the BBC reported Tuesday that six retired officers, who all spent time in the force’s Diplomatic Protection Group, have been charged with criminal offenses over “grossly offensive racist messages.” These messages were sent in a WhatsApp group between 2018 and 2022, with some of these messages involving Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Newsweek reported. Others targeted Rwandans who are subject to the UK’s controversial policy on asylum and immigration, as well as people affected by recent flooding in Pakistan that left nearly 1,700 dead.

A statement from the Metropolitan Police revealed that the six officers — all in their 60s — had each served time in various capacities in the force, but notably in the Diplomatic Protection Group, which has since been renamed the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, the BBC said. This group deploys officers to protect government buildings, embassies and residences, including the prime ministerial residence of 10 Downing Street and the Palace of Westminster, where parliament sits.

The statement said the charges follow an investigation by the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards, which was launched in response to an expose by BBC’s “Newsnight” program late last year. The statement said the officers were charged with offenses under a section of the 2003 Communications Act.

Commander James Harman, who leads the Met’s Anti-Corruption and Abuse Command, told the BBC that “the honest majority of Met officers are fully behind this work.” He said “they are tired of being let down by a minority in policing and they are aware of the damage poor behavior can do to our relationship with the communities we serve.”

With regard to Harry and Meghan, this is not the first time that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been the subject of racist messages exchanged by police officers, Newsweek reported.

In July 2022, two officers from the Metropolitan Police’s Forensic Services department were fired after allegedly racist WhatsApp messages with a former colleague were investigated, Newsweek reported at the time. One was sent at the time of Harry and Meghan’s 2018 wedding, and it showed a photograph meme of a “golliwog” toy. The “golliwog” toy is a racist caricature of a Black person, and a caption of the photo referred to Meghan, who is biracial. “A sneak preview at Meghan’s wedding dress,” the caption said.

When these two officers were fired, another Met commander, Jon Savell, said at the time: “These vile messages were shared in 2018 within a closed WhatsApp group between a small group of officers. I hardly need to say it is completely unacceptable for anyone, let alone a police officer, to behave in such a manner. The actions of these three are inexcusable.”

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Harry and Meghan have spoken out about the racism they say she endured at the hands of the U.K. media when she became engaged to Harry and then when she married into the British royal family. The couple, who fled royal life in 2020 and have since resettled in California, also alleged that racism existed within the royal family in their 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey.

They said that unnamed family member made racially insensitive comments about the skin color of their future children. Harry later denied that his wife ever called anyone in his family “racist” and said instead that the comment about their children’s skin color was an example of “unconscious bias.”

In the Bay Area, revelations of scores of racist text messages sent among police officers have rocked the Contra Costa County town of Antioch. An  investigation of allegations against multiple officers, including drug dealing, obstruction of justice, assault under color of authority and fraud, led to the discovery and publication of the texts.