A police officer has been given a final written warning after an investigation found he or she had sent inappropriate messages to a vulnerable woman.
The officer was allowed to remain anonymous by the chair of a misconduct hearing which ended today (Thursday 4 January) after sitting for three days in September.
The rank, name and gender of the officer have bee kept secret from the public, placing their colleagues under the cloud of suspicion.
Sussex Police said: “The hearing was told that Officer X, who was based at Arundel, sent a number of inappropriate messages using WhatsApp to a vulnerable female member of the public after meeting her on duty.
“The officer then accessed the woman’s police records for no proper policing purpose.
“Once the allegations came to light, the officer was suspended from duty and an investigation commenced.
“The officer was alleged to have breached standards of professional behaviour in respect of discreditable conduct and confidentiality.
“The breaches was proven by the misconduct panel and it was determined that this amounted to misconduct. Officer X was given a final written warning for two years.”
The misconduct hearing was held by a panel led by an “independent legally qualified chair” (LQC) who directed that the officer would remain anonymous.
Sussex Police said: “LQCs are selected from a list of independent legally qualified persons to conduct police misconduct hearings and are governed by the Police Conduct Regulations.
“LQCs work with the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and others to instil and embed as much transparency and proportionality into misconduct hearings.
“The officer, referred to as Officer X, was granted anonymity by the LQC after making legal representations before the hearing.
“It is the responsibility of the LQC alone to determine whether or not a hearing is partially or wholly held in public or in private and whether any participant should be anonymised.
“Sussex Police are directed by and must abide by rulings made by the panel chair.”
The former Prime Minister Theresa May has criticised the lack of transparency at police misconduct hearings.
In an article published by Brighton and Hove News, she wrote: “It leaves the impression that the police, whose job it is to protect the public, are prioritising the reputation of the institution over the delivery of justice.”
As Home Secretary she took steps to open up the disciplinary process as a way of trying to restore public trust, not least given the considerable powers that go with policing.
Detective Superintendent Jon Robeson, deputy head of professional standards, said: “Sussex Police expects the highest personal and professional standards of anyone who works for us and the actions of this officer in this case fell short of those standards.
“We are ensuring that all staff are aware of appropriate professional boundaries and have invested in a comprehensive programme of cultural change towards challenging, reporting and tackling unethical or unprofessional behaviour.
“Such behaviours have no place in Sussex Police and this has been reflected in the outcome of the hearing today.”