Officer disciplined for breaching police code of ethics over off-duty traffic incident

Published Date: 27.11.2014

An off-duty police officer who made inappropriate use of the fact he was a police officer to further a grievance against a lorry driver over a traffic incident, has been disciplined for breaching the police code of ethics.

The officer mentioned the fact he was a police officer when he reported the incident to the lorry driver’s employers, and again when he visited the premises of the company the driver was working for. The officer also twice called the driver’s home phone number.

The lorry driver lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman’s Office about the officer’s behaviour in the wake of the incident, which happened as he drove an articulated lorry from an offslip onto the motorway.

He said the officer, who was driving his own car, pulled out from behind him, drove alongside the lorry and flashed his lights and sounded his horn. He said the officer then pulled into the lane in front of him and signalled for him to pull over.

When he did not do so, he said the officer drove behind him for a distance of over ten miles before turning off. When the lorry driver reached his destination, his manager informed him that a complaint had been made about his driving.

The driver worked for an agency, and another complaint was subsequently made to the company whose vehicle he was driving.

The following day, the officer visited the transport manager of the company which owned the lorry and asked for the driver’s details, but was referred instead to the driver’s employers.

Later that day, two phone calls were made to the driver’s home phone number.

The Police Ombudsman investigator who investigated the lorry driver’s complaint spoke to the man’s employers, as well as the company which owned the lorry. They confirmed his account of the calls made by the off-duty officer.

The investigator concluded that the officer, who mentioned the fact he was an off-duty police officer during each of the calls, had breached the police code of ethics by making use of the fact he was a police officer to pursue a personal grievance.  The officer has since been disciplined.

However, a check of queries of police records made by the officer allayed the lorry driver’s fears that his home phone number had been obtained from police records. The officer said he got the number from directory enquiries, and a check confirmed it was publicly available.

The investigation also found no issue with the fact the officer had made a phone call while driving, given that he had used a handsfree kit to do so.

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