Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Officers who made racist and ableist jokes about Harvey Price should be “barred” from serving, say Met Police

Eight serving and former Metropolitan Police officers have been found guilty of gross misconduct over “discriminatory and offensive” messages sent on WhatsApp.

The Met – the police service for the Greater London area – told the tribunal that it welcomed the findings of gross misconduct and asked for all of the officers to be barred from ever serving in a British constabulary ever again.

Two police officers mocked Harvey Price for his disability

Seven men and one woman swapped racist and ableist jokes, some of which were about Harvey Price, who is autistic and has Prader-Willi syndrome – a rare genetic condition that causes a wide range of physical symptoms, learning difficulties and behavioural challenges.

The hearing heard that one of the police officers, former sergeant Luke Thomas, mocked Harvey’s weight in some messages, while another, who remains anonymous, made racist and ableist comments.

Legal Chairman, Christopher McKay said ‘Officer B’ posted an edited photograph of Price in the chat with the caption: “You’ve heard of elf on a shelf, now get ready for Harvey Price eating Uncle Ben’s basmati rice after trying to read three blind mice on spice.”

McKay said: “The rhyme has a racist tone and refers to his disability – he is partially sighted. There is no need to refer to Uncle Ben’s rice unless pointing to the racial origins of Uncle Ben and Harvey Price being similar. The words ‘trying to read’ also highlight his disability.”

He described the message as a “inappropriate and offensive” and said it represents a “significant breach of the standard of equality and diversity”.

Harvey Price is an ambassador for the learning disability charity Mencap. The charity has responded to the verdict, saying: “It’s absolutely appalling that serving police officers have been found guilty of sharing abusive content about vulnerable people – the same people they have a duty to protect. We stand alongside our ambassador Harvey and condemn their actions.”

“We can’t live in a society where this kind of abuse is tolerated, and we hope that today’s outcome serves as a warning to those who turn a blind eye, or worse, partake in bullying. We will continue to work with Harvey and his family to address stigma and discrimination against people with a learning disability.”

“Wholly inappropriate conduct”

The officers also joked about the Holocaust and applauded a policeman who had raped someone. None of the members of the WhatsApp group challenged or reported the messages.

Mr McKay said: “[The] messages reveal wholly inappropriate conduct that is not compatible with being a police officer.” He described their conduct as a “breach of the standards of professional behaviour that is so serious as to justify dismissal”.

Dal Babu, former chief superintendent in the Metropolitan police, told Channel 4 News: “This is a culture in police forces up and down England and Wales, if you look at the rulings you get from Greater Manchester police all the way to the Metropolitan Police, they have a similar theme. It seems that the police are out of touch with society when it comes to dealing with racism, misogyny and homophobia.”

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