Special Constable sacked for Gross Misconduct after multiple breaches of police conduct
A special constable, who once helped run March Neighbourhood Watch, has been sacked for gross misconduct.
Ryan Berridge, 29, who is now living in St Neots, admitted multiple breaches of police conduct including accessing police computers when not on duty, driving a police car at over 90mph with the blue lights flashing, when he was not allowed to do so and also using derogatory language on a rural policing WhatsApp group.
Berridge, who was secretary of the March Neighbourhood Watch Group when it was re-launched in 2016, was dismissed by Chief Constable Nick Dean without notice following a hearing earlier this week.
He had volunteered as a Special Constable based at Huntingdon since 2017.
Allegations against Berridge included accessing police computers, while not on duty and for non-policing purposes, between January 1 2020 and March 31 2020.
On March 11 2020 Berridge drove a police vehicle at 94mph "over a prolonged period of time, over a long distance, and illuminated blue lights whilst passing other road users".
Mr Dean commented: "This is not your driving grade."
On October 15 2020 Berridge ussed the term "Pikey Rodders" when referring to a member of the public on a rural policing WhatsApp group, and then followed it up with the statement: "Come to think of it, i need a new drive laying."
It is alleged that his conduct as outlined has breached the standards of professional behaviour, namely duties and responsibilities, discreditable conduct, confidentiality, equality and diversity.
Mr Dean in his findings said: "The police service expects all its officers and staff to act in manner that does not bring discredit to the service or harm its reputation. The public expect that these standards are upheld. The conduct that you displayed falls way short of these standards as set out on the standards of professional behaviour."
He added: "I have considered this case in full and having heard your earlier representations, both verbal and written responses, I find that your conduct amounts to gross misconduct."
Mr Dean said he had listened to the "extensive testaments of good character from colleagues and associates and indeed your acceptance from an early stage in this investigation that this conduct amounted to gross misconduct".
Commenting on the driving incident Mr Dean said: "You have driven beyond the realms of your training and put not only yourself and colleagues in danger but members of public at risk of being harmed by the excessive manner of driving in a marked police vehicle which you were not trained or authorised to do."
However he did accept that "on occasions that the desire to assist colleagues and the public can cloud judgment".
In relation to the misuse of force systems as the case has outlined this again has not been a ‘one- off’ incident which could have been seen as a lapse of judgment.
Mr Dean said: "Unauthorised access was sustained over a few months and in deed on 20 separate dates. Your motivation for doing this, again could be in part be rationalised, however, it cannot be clearer within the policing environment that to access data for non-policing purposes is wrong, whatever the apparent motivation for doing so.
"The data itself contained personal information of a sensitive nature relating to a number of individuals and policing incidents for which there was no policing purpose to access whilst off duty.
"I have considered the submission that you conducted the checks being keen and unaware of the boundaries of your role, however I am not satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that this provides sufficient mitigation.
"Each breach was not a spontaneous act, it was done in my view out of curiosity and for no legitimate policing purpose other than to see what was going on."
And finally on the discriminatory language Mr Dean said: "The discriminatory language used in a WhatsApp message was inappropriate and although it appears at the time that you thought it was ‘humour’ it does not minimise the culpability of your actions; unconsciously discriminate, is serious and can have a significant impact on public confidence in policing."
Mr Dean concluded: “The public should be able to trust that all of our officers whether volunteers or regulars, act with the highest levels of honesty and integrity and SC Berridge’s actions fall well below these standards.”