A former police officer abused his position by engaging in inappropriate relationships with vulnerable women, according to a police watchdog. The Independent Office for Police Conduct found that Jonathan Townsend, who served with the West Mercia Police, had inappropriate contact with three women he met over the course of his duties, two of whom were victims of sexual violence.
The panel heard that Townsend, who resigned from the force in November, exchanged texts and videos of a sexual nature on his force mobile phone. At the disciplinary hearing this week it was determined that Townsend would have been dismissed for gross misconduct had he still been serving.
The conclusion of this investigation comes just days after a constable from the same force was dismissed for gross misconduct after having inappropriate contact with two vulnerable women he met through his policing duties. PC Michael Harrison was alleged to have formed a sexual relationship with one woman, and to have accessed police systems for information about another woman for no policing purpose.
Deputy Chief Constable Julian Moss said on Monday: ‘This is the second such case to be heard in West Mercia Police in the past week, and the outcome reaffirms our commitment to rid our force, and the whole police service, of corrupt officers. We will not accept this behaviour in our force. It is a form of serious corruption and we are working with vigour to eradicate it.’
The IOPC investigations shed light on the processes used to investigate and punish police misconduct. However campaign groups and charities have raised repeated concerns about failures to investigate police misogyny. The Guardian reported this week that an officer of the Metropolitan Police who sent a series of personal emails to a woman who had been the victim of an attempted robbery still serves under the force.
DCI James Mason reportedly asked Kristina O’Connor out to dinner while taking her statement following the incident and then sent her inappropriate emails, including one telling her she was ‘amazingly hot’. O’Connor’s legal team is now arguing the Met Police ‘failed to properly investigate’ her complaint due to gender discrimination and is calling for a judicial review of how the investigation was handled.
A spokesperson for the Met said: ‘We recognise there is a need for real change in the Met. We are committed to creating an environment that is intolerant to those who do not uphold the high values and standards expected of us.’
‘Any victim of crime should have the confidence and trust to come to the police to receive the support and professionalism they rightfully expect. Where this does not happen, we want to know about it so any learning and, if appropriate, disciplinary action can be taken.’