Home Office suspends ex-Met officer over racist WhatsApp chaton October 6, 2022 at 4:57 am

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The man, now a Home Office immigration official, has been suspended, after a BBC investigation.

Rob Lewis

An immigration official at the Home Office has been suspended after a BBC investigation revealed he had been posting racist content on WhatsApp.

Rob Lewis, an ex-Metropolitan Police officer, is understood to have created the group chat, which also included other former Met police officers.

BBC Newsnight has seen racist messages about flooding in Pakistan, as well as Harry and Meghan, shared in the chat.

The Home Office called the messages “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.

Newsnight has been passed dozens of messages, all shared within the group chat, by a member of the group. Many of the images are racist and too offensive to show. Some contain the very strongest racial slurs.

Some of the posts reference the government’s Rwanda policy, while others joke about recent flooding in Pakistan, which left almost 1,700 people dead. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex also feature in several memes, alongside racist language.

‘Extremely unpleasant’

Several of the members of the WhatsApp group used to work 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 and is now called the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection (PaDP).

Newsnight understands serving police officers were part of the group in question until recently, but many left following the murder of Sarah Everard, last year. Ms Everard was murdered by Wayne Couzens, who was a member of the same specialist branch.

Dave Eden

Dave Eden, a former member of the DPG, has been on the WhatsApp group since its creation in 2016 and passed the messages to the BBC. He says he has never posted in the group.

“There are references to black politicians, which are extremely unpleasant,” he told the BBC. “The entire undertone is one of racism and misogyny.”

Mr Eden was a police officer for 27 years and retired in 2010. Throughout that time he has collected evidence – some shared with the BBC – showing prejudice in British policing.

It comes as a serving officer with the Met has also shared a racist image with Newsnight, which he says has been doing the rounds on WhatsApp in recent months. The image is too offensive to publish and involves a picture of black babies.

Another serving officer, who spoke to the BBC on condition of anonymity, said: “I do not think these behaviours and ideologies can be removed from the Met.

“Individuals need to be held accountable and made an example of to demonstrate to colleagues that these behaviours and ideologies have no place in the Met. I fail to see any substantial improvement within the organisation.”

Dave Eden and BBC Newsnight's Sima Kotecha

In a statement, 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.”

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”. In a statement to Newsnight, it said: “We urge them to reconsider so we can take action”.

Mr Eden said: “I don’t trust the system, but would welcome speaking to someone of a senior rank.”

Far too weak

The Met’s new Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, said his plan for reform “is already under way”. He added: “I will be ruthless in rooting out those corrupting officers and staff, including racists and misogynists, from our organisation.

“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.”

Mr Eden said he has submitted material he has gathered over four decades to the Angiolini Inquiry, which is investigating the murder of Sarah Everard, as well as wider issues affecting policing.

He said: “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.”

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