Home Office suspends former Met officer over 'deplorable' racist WhatsApp chat

Rob Lewis - Met Police
Rob Lewis - Met Police

A former Metropolitan police officer has been arrested after allegations that he created a Whatsapp site where ex-officers shared racist and misogynistic posts.

The former officer, Rob Lewis, was suspended on Wednesday by the Home Office from his new job with Border Force over the “vile and deplorable” texts on the site which also included other former Met police officers.

The messages, uncovered by BBC Newsnight, included racial slurs, using the “p” and “n” word.  Some posts referenced the government's Rwanda policy. Others joked about recent flooding in Pakistan, which left almost 1,700 people dead. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex featured in several memes, alongside racist language.

On Thursday evening, the Met Police announced a man aged in his 60s had been arrested on suspicion of offences under the Communications Act and misconduct in a public office. He remained in custody at a south London police station.

In a statement Sir Mark Rowley, the new Met Police Commissioner, pledged to “be ruthless in rooting out those corrupting officers and staff, including racists and misogynists, from our organisation.”

He added: "I have taken over as the leader of an organisation that has been far too weak in taking on those who undermine the honest and dedicated majority, who determinedly serve the public.

"That will change and I will continue to seek out those, from both within and outside the Met, with that constructive anger who can help us reform." A Home Office immigration official has been suspended after posting "vile and deplorable" racist content on a WhatsApp group with former police officers.

The Home Office which suspended Mr Lewis within hours of being told of the messages described them as  "vile and deplorable". It said it had "a zero-tolerance approach to anyone displaying racist or discriminatory behaviour".

Mr Lewis declined to answer questions about the group and its content.

Several of the members of the WhatsApp group are said to have worked for the Diplomatic Protection Group (DPG), a specialist operations branch of the Met that guards the Houses of Parliament and protects ministers.

The unit has since changed its name to the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection (PaDP).

Serving police officers are said to have been part of the Whatsapp group until recently, but many left following the murder of Sarah Everard last year. Ms Everard was murdered by Met police officer Wayne Couzens, who was a member of the same specialist branch.

'Entire undertone is one of racism and misogyny'

The messages were revealed by Dave Eden, a former member of the DPG, who is said to have been on the WhatsApp group since its creation in 2016. Mr Eden, who says he has never posted in the group, passed the messages to the BBC.

"There are references to black politicians, which are extremely unpleasant," he said. "The entire undertone is one of racism and misogyny."

Mr Eden, a police officer for 27 years who retired in 2010, said he had collected evidence showing prejudice in British policing throughout his time in the profession.

He said he had submitted material he had gathered to the Angiolini Inquiry, which is investigating the murder of Sarah Everard and police culture.

"This group tells me that the culture of the Metropolitan Police hasn't changed. And in fairness, it's not just this group, it's other groups. It's what I'm hearing out of the mouths of ex-colleagues. And what I'm witnessing all the time," said Mr Eden.

The Home Office said it had suspended a member of staff following allegations of gross misconduct. "We expect the highest standards of our staff and have a zero tolerance approach to anyone displaying racist, homophobic, misogynist or discriminatory behaviour. Where we are made aware of such behaviour we will not hesitate to take decisive action," it said.

The Metropolitan Police said it had contacted Mr Eden's representatives in the spring when it first learnt about the messages, "but they declined to share further details". It said: "We urge them to reconsider so we can take action."

'I don't trust the system'

Mr Eden told the BBC: "I don't trust the system, but would welcome speaking to someone of a senior rank."

Commander Jon Savell, responsible for professional standards, said: "These messages are abhorrent and have absolutely no place in policing or society.

"Their behaviour erodes the confidence that the public has in the police - a confidence that the vast majority of us in the Met works tirelessly day-in, day-out to maintain and improve.

"Racism, misogyny, homophobia or any other discriminatory behaviour has no place in the Met.

"Where such behaviour is identified it will be dealt with robustly, but we will also be actively seeking out those whose actions bring shame to us.

"We contacted Mr Eden’s representatives when these messages first emerged in April but they declined to share further details. We urge them to reconsider so we can take action. In the meantime we appeal to anyone who has information about such behaviour to make contact."