The Crown Prosecution Service has decided not to prosecute three police officers for allegedly racist remarks about a black British actor.
The police force had sought authorisation from the CPS to charge their own officers over the incident.
Last year one police officer from Cambridgeshire constabulary was suspended and two others were placed on restricted duties after allegedly racist remarks were exchanged on a WhatsApp group under an image of the British actor and writer Kayode Ewumi.
In the exchange on the social media app, one of the officers posted a meme of Ewumi, 27, which went viral in 2017. The image shows Ewumi as his character Reece Simpson, also known as Roll Safe, in the BBC Three comedy #HoodDocumentary, where he taps his finger to the side of his head having just thought of something. Underneath the image of Ewumi, a second police officer wrote the word “monkey” then posted an image of a baby monkey hanging on to a tree branch. A third officer wrote “lol” underneath the image of the monkey.
The team of police officers in the WhatsApp group at the time the messages were exchanged were mainly white. But one minority ethnic officer in the team made an official complaint after receiving the messages on his family mobile phone, where it was seen by his three children.
The incident was referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which asked the police force’s professional standards department to investigate. Initially, gross misconduct proceedings against the officers were considered, but these proceedings have now been reduced to misconduct and the suspension of one of the three officers has been lifted.
Attiq Malik of Liberty Law Solicitors, who is representing the officer who said he believed the exchanges were racist and made a complaint, said that the Cambridgeshire constabulary update on the case was “disappointing”.
“Even if the CPS has taken the decision not to prosecute it doesn’t automatically follow that gross misconduct proceedings against police officers should be changed to misconduct proceedings,” Malik said.
A spokesperson for Cambridgeshire constabulary said: “In early May 2020 a complaint was made about an allegedly racist exchange on WhatsApp between officers in Peterborough. Following this complaint, a referral was made to the Independent Office for Police Conduct who directed an investigation should be conducted by our professional standards department. Two officers were placed on restricted duties and a third suspended while a thorough investigation took place. A file was submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service seeking authorisation to charge the officers with malicious communications.
“This file was reviewed by a senior prosecutor and a hate crime specialist who, with the entire history of the group conversation available, concluded that no further action should be taken. In light of this decision, gross misconduct proceedings were reduced to misconduct and the suspension was lifted.
“The behaviour and practice of officers involved in this matter were assessed by the professional standards department as requiring improvement, and work on this is under way.”