Police sergeant shared racist meme mocking George Floyd's death in WhatsApp group five days after tragedy
The sergeant who sent the image was formally suspended from duty and authorities are looking into the matter
A police sergeant in England is under criminal investigation after he shared a racist altered image of George Floyd's arrest with other officers in a private chat group on WhatsApp.
The Daily Mail reported that the sergeant, who is with the Devon and Cornwall police but has not been identified, is also being investigated for possible gross misconduct for sharing the image, which was posted five days after Floyd's death.
Floyd, a 46-year-old truck driver, died on Memorial Day in the custody of four Minneapolis Police officers, Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J Alexander Kueng. In a viral video that has now been viewed hundreds of millions of times across the world, Floyd could be seen begging for his life, gasping for air, and calling for his mother as Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
The Independent Office for Police Misconduct (IOPC) is investigating the incident in England after they were made aware of the 'meme' following a referral from the Devon and Cornwall Police, who were told of it by a white police officer also in the Whatsapp group.
Besides the sergeant, the IOPC is also investigating some of the other members of the group, which comprised of police officers and staff, as well as civilians, for their alleged response to the image, or their failure to report it to the concerned authorities.
"It will be of considerable public concern that such an image was apparently shared among colleagues by a serving police officer," said Catrin Evans, the regional director for the watchdog. "We are criminally investigating the sergeant who allegedly shared the image, and examining the conduct of some others involved in the group."
"Our investigators will be considering whether the sharing of this image was motivated by racial discrimination," she continued. "Devon and Cornwall police has rightly promptly referred it to the IOPC, and I would like to assure people we are conducting a thorough and independent investigation."
Jim Nye, the Devon and Cornwall assistant chief constable, said the force "expects highest standards of behavior from all its staff when on and off duty at all times". He said the matter had been "quickly brought to light" internally by a staff member and that a referral had been made to the IOPC at the "earliest opportunity".
"Devon and Cornwall police wholly appreciate the concern our communities will have regarding an investigation of this kind," he added. "I would reassure them that I, and the chief constable, will do everything possible to ensure the matter is dealt with effectively and in a timely manner."
The investigation will consider whether the sending of the image was motivated by racism, or whether it was an attempt at humor that backfired. It will determine if it went against Section 127 of the 2003 Communications Act, which makes it an offense to send a message that is "grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character."
The sergeant who sent the image was formally suspended from duty on Monday, June 22.