Twenty-six Avon & Somerset Police officers are still serving despite committing misconduct or gross misconduct, the Chief Constable has revealed.

Two kept their jobs after findings of gross misconduct for sexual harassment and one for racial discrimination.

During a monthly grilling by Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Mark Shelford, the force’s top officer Sarah Crew said she was awaiting results from the national police database to check if any others had slipped through the net.

Chief Constable Crew told the PCC’s performance and accountability board on Thursday, March 9: “I fully acknowledge the concerns that the public have around standards of professional behaviour – I share these concerns.

“Within Avon & Somerset we’ve uplifted the resources within our professional standards department and we are checking all our officers and staff against the police national database to look at any intelligence or information that we might not have been previously aware of."

“That has been a concern for the public"

“We have twenty six officers who have had findings of misconduct or gross misconduct who are still serving.Seventeen of those twenty six have a misconduct finding."

“It’s important to say that dismissal is not an available sanction when it is misconduct."

“That leaves nine officers who have a finding of gross misconduct. In those cases those officers have received a final written warning and those would normally be in place for a set period of up to five years."

“Of those – because I know this is where the public concern is – two officers have received gross misconduct findings for sexual harassment or conduct preliminary to sexual harassment and one officer had a finding of discriminatory comments of a racial nature.”

She said these three cases were subject to police misconduct panel hearings in 2019 and 2020 chaired by an independent legally qualified chair (LQC).

“It’s important to say that in the latter case, the discriminatory comments, that case was taken to judicial review by the then Chief Constable to explore and overturn that sanction,” she said.

“However, that wasn’t allowed by the court."

“It’s also right for me to say that of those whole twenty six, twenty of the final written warnings have expired. That means that the period of time has expired but there have been no further instances of conduct of a similar nature or of concern."

“Of those that are on a final written warning, it’s right to reassure the public that there is close management and proactive management by line managers and the professional standards department,”

Chief Constable Crew said she expected a quantity of raw data to come back from the national police computer system in the next few weeks and a team was being created to pore through it.

She said: “We anticipate we will have completed that exercise towards the end of the summer, so at that point we will identify if there are any additional concerns needing an investigation.”

Conservative PCC Mr Shelford asked: “Can you give me some assurance that this process is the process that has been agreed by the Home Office with advice from the College of Policing?”

She replied: “Absolutely. This is a process that’s historically checking."

“Under development is a process where this becomes an ongoing checking and testing, so as new information hits the database and it relates to a police officer or police staff in a police force, that police force will be notified.”

At the previous month’s board, she said that in every Avon & Somerset Police misconduct case chaired by the Chief Constable in the last five years, the officer was sacked or had already resigned.

But there were several cases over that period when the panel was chaired by an LQC who had decided the sanction should be a written warning and not dismissal, which made managing those officers and the risks they posed as “challenging”.

A national report last November by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services found it was “too easy for the wrong people to join and stay in the police” and that vetting standards were not good enough.

According to the police conduct regulations, “misconduct” means a breach of the Standards of Professional Behaviour serious enough to justify disciplinary action, while “gross misconduct” amounts to a breach serious enough to warrant dismissal.