A panel has ruled that a former police officer who sent inappropriate text messages to victims of crime would have been dismissed for gross misconduct had he not already resigned.
Former PC Mark Ephgrave left Bedfordshire Police in August 2018 after allegations around his conduct came to light. However, under new regulations misconduct proceedings could still be brought against him.
In 2017 the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Professional Standards Department received a report that Mr Ephgrave had sent text messages to a member of public while on duty.
As a result, a thorough investigation was launched and uncovered that Ephgrave had actually sent messages to four female victims of crime between December 2016 and December 2017.
A one-day public hearing conducted via Teams on Monday (11 October 2021) ruled that Mr Ephgrave had breached the Standard of Professional Behaviour for Authority, Respect and Courtesy and Discreditable Conduct.
The chairman of the independent panel concluded that he would have faced instant dismissal for his actions. Mr Ephgrave did not attend nor contest the hearing.
Assistant Chief Constable Sharn Basra said:
“Targeting vulnerable victims of crime is completely unacceptable. People come to us for help and support and should be able to have full trust and confidence in our officers. This was a case of an officer abusing that position of trust for his own gratification and gains and such behaviour has no place in this force.
“As soon as we became aware of the allegations a full investigation was launched by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which subsequently identified further victims.
“While the officer resigned after being confronted with the accusations, it was only right to ensure a full hearing was held and ensure Mr Ephgrave will be placed on a barred list which could prevent him working in similar roles in future.
“I would urge anyone who has been victim to similar behaviour to please call us. This case shows we will listen and take action against anyone who behaves in such a way and betrays the uniform we all wear with such pride.”
Since April 2016 there have been 22 sexual misconduct cases recorded against Bedfordshire officers or staff with 10 live cases still being investigated.
In that time period three people have been dismissed from the force for gross misconduct, Mr Ephgrave is one of an additional three three officers who would have been dismissed had they not already resigned.
A further former officer who has left the force is also awaiting a hearing.
Police and crime commissioner Festus Akinbusoye said:
“Quite rightly, the public expect the highest standards of professional conduct from police officers and staff. Actions that fall below this level potentially tarnish the image of the vast majority of officers who go about their work as expected.
“I am pleased that, despite the resignation of former PC Ephgrave, Bedfordshire Police has proceeded with a gross misconduct hearing which found that he would have been sacked had he remained in the role. He will now go on the barred list.
“As Police and Crime Commissioner, I am fully committed to holding the Chief Constable accountable for the maintaining of the highest standards from our officers and ensuring Bedfordshire Police provides absolutely no room this sort of behaviour for any member of staff.”