Police officer who cut earrings off recruits guilty of gross misconduct

<span>The incident took place on 17 April 2023 when a group of student officers attended Dorset police headquarters to undertake a job-related fitness test.</span><span>Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian</span>
The incident took place on 17 April 2023 when a group of student officers attended Dorset police headquarters to undertake a job-related fitness test.Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

A police trainer who used cutting equipment to remove earrings from three student officers before fitness and safety exercises has been found guilty of gross misconduct.

The three female officers believed PC Martin Briggs had used bolt croppers on them, but during the misconduct hearing it was established that while he did fetch the large tool, he had used smaller “snips”.

A panel found that Briggs, who was working in Dorset police’s operational training unit, breached the standards of professional behaviour relating to authority, respect, courtesy and discreditable conduct, and decided he was guilty of gross misconduct. He was issued with a final written warning that will be in place for five years.

The allegations centred on an incident on 17 April 2023 when a group of student officers attended headquarters to undertake a job-related fitness test.

Briggs identified some students who needed to remove jewellery before completing the training, which included a “bleep test” run. Three were unable to remove their earrings, however, and informed him of the fact.

He fetched a pair of bolt croppers and snippers. The three women believed he had used the croppers. The panel found that the students had not given free and genuine consent to Briggs’ actions.

The panel accepted that the bolt croppers could not physically have been used, but it found that the students honestly thought they had been – and that Briggs had taken them with the intention of the students believing they were to be used.

Rachel Farrell, deputy chief constable of Dorset police, said: “I was saddened to hear about this incident involving the very team of officers who are expected to demonstrate impeccable standards of behaviour and respect to our new student officers as they begin their policing journey with us.

“The panel found that there was confusion over the dress code policy for officers taking part in the job-related fitness test and since this incident we have already reviewed our policies and training joining instructions so it is made very clear to officers that no jewellery or piercings must be worn.”

Briggs told the hearing: “My approach is direct, firm but fair, and not bullying. My primary responsibility is to keep students safe.

“There are numerous potential risks of someone running the bleep test with jewellery as they run in one metre-wide lanes and flailing arms could catch piercings, or there is the risk of tripping over or falling while exhausted.”

He admitted bringing the bolt croppers but said he left them on a desk and did not use them.

Briggs said: “They [the recruits] were sat in a chair and I asked them to place their head on a folded up jumper so their head was steady. I placed the teeth of the wire cutters around the bar or ring, using my fingers to prevent any contact between them and the ear. I explained that I could stop at any time.”

One of the recruits, PC Holly Law, was left with blood coming from her ear, the hearing was told.

Law, who had only joined Dorset police three weeks before, said: “I had five or six piercings but two were tight on so I couldn’t remove them.

“PC Briggs said he’d cut them out and at first I thought it was a joke. But when I looked into the office and he was there with these bolt croppers. I was quite shocked. One of my piercings did bleed. I felt shocked and silly, but it was not until later on that the anxiety hit.”