Police ban using kisses and heart emojis in case it's a sexual offence

Police chiefs ban using messages with kisses and heart emojis in case it’s a sexual offence as staff say bosses care ‘more about being PC than PCs’

  • Frontline officers and PCSOs at Essex Police received the warning from bosses
  • It was before one was guilty of gross misconduct for sending sexual messages
  • One critic suggested the force’s top brass care ‘more about being PC than PCs’

Police chiefs have told staff not to exchange texts featuring kisses and heart emojis amid concerns about sexual harassment.

Frontline officers and PCSOs at Essex Police received the warning shortly before one of their number was found guilty of gross misconduct for sending sexual messages to three female colleagues.

However, the move has been ridiculed by some staff, with one critic suggesting that the force’s top brass care ‘more about being PC than PCs’.

One officer told The Mail on Sunday: ‘It’s total nonsense. You’re texting a friend or a pal and put a little kiss, or heart and all of a sudden that’s inappropriate and is being policed by bosses.

‘I can understand forces need to make sure messages stay professional but this is just a bit over the top.

‘How can they say this is part of a policy to prevent sexual harassment? It’s ridiculous and more like a policy to prevent friendliness between staff.’

Frontline officers and PCSOs at Essex Police received the warning shortly before one of their number was found guilty of gross misconduct for sending sexual messages to three female colleagues (file photo of the station)

It is understood that senior officers fear that declarations of affection in messages could lead to complaints from staff who feel ‘uncomfortable’, or they could be a sign of sexual harassment.

However, Conservative MP Tim Loughton, a member of the Home Affairs select committee, said the police appeared to be losing sight of the job at hand.

‘This sounds like another case of the police being more about being PC than PCs.

‘Millions of people routinely use emojis and kisses in texts and social media without intending or causing sexual harassment or discomfort.

‘If the police need to be given special protection from themselves then they probably aren’t in the most appropriate job when needed to stand up to criminals and those who really do intend harm.

‘Yet again the police seem to forget their primary job is to protect the public, not themselves from each other.’

Conservative MP Tim Loughton (pictured), a member of the Home Affairs select committee, said the police appeared to be losing sight of the job at hand

The directive was reissued prior to a misconduct hearing last week which found Essex Police special sergeant James Herdman guilty of gross misconduct for sending sexual messages to three female special constables.

He had resigned from the force in March before being found guilty of misconduct over the messages sent between January and March of last year.

It also comes as last week the police watchdog announced a series of recommendations for officers’ use of WhatsApp and called for national guidance.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is concerned over officers’ use of personal phones and WhatsApp to discuss work-related matters. Last night, an Essex Police spokesman said: ‘The wellbeing of our staff is a priority and we believe everyone should feel comfortable at work.’

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