News » Crime

British Cop Uses 'F-Word,' But Use Is Called 'Not Homophobic' by Disciplinary Panel

Wednesday May 19, 2021

A British police officer was caught on his own body cam telling a colleague about a man they were holding in custody: "You just need to keep an eye on him cos the cuffs keep slipping off this skinny fucking faggot," according to the Liverpool newspaper The Echo.

The man in custody — referred to as Mr. A — filed a complaint with local authorities about being called the epithet. But last week, Merseyside Police officer PC Daniel Wiffen was disciplined with a written warning for using a homophobic slur after arresting a drunken man in the street. The independent disciplinary panel found that "while PC Wiffen's behaviour amounted to gross misconduct, he was 'not homophobic' and had used the term in frustration during a stressful incident."

"The incident occurred on May 8 last year outside the Shrewsbury Lodge Hotel in Oxton, where police had been called to reports of drunken males causing a nuisance in the street," reported The Echo. In the testimony before the disciplinary board, it was revealed that Mr. A and his associate had used the term themselves while drunkenly shouting in the street, which Wiffen claims may have "planted the seed" in his mind.

At first, Wiffen dealt with one of Mr. A's associates, who was drunk and swearing loudly. But Mr. A joined in complaining that his friend was treated in a belligerent manner. "The panel heard: '[Mr A] took his jacket off and assumed a fighting stance. He was bounding up and down saying 'f*** off you c****'," The Echo reported.

"Wiffen and his colleague decided to take 'clearly drunk' Mr A to the ground due to his 'escalating, aggressive behaviour,' which included 'shouting and screaming, talking about Nazi governments.'"

Wiffen also told the panel that he didn't recall saying 'skinny faggot fuck' and that he only found out upon viewing his body camera footage. He told the panel that the use of the term was "completely not me" and that he hadn't used the term "fag" before, adding that he understood how anyone LGBTQ would be offended by it. He also told the panel that he couldn't explain the use of the word except that he was involved in a "very stressful situation."

"He said he has gay friends and, at the time, he knew 'fag'" to be "an offensive word," The Echo added.

"The panel concluded that there was not enough evidence that PC Wiffen knew or suspected that Mr A was gay or bisexual at the time of the incident — and could not conclude he was homophobic."

Wiffen, 26, who joined the force in 2016, was described at the hearing as being polite and courteous, and a person who treats people with dignity and respect. "He is not, as the Appropriate Authority (PSD) accept, homophobic." He also admitted that his conduct was "gross misconduct and was a sackable offence" — but the panel drew back from firing him and instead placed him under the terms of a final written warning lasting three years.

Chief superintendent Peter Costello, head of the force's Professional Standards Department, said after the case: "I acknowledge the impact this incident will have had on the man involved — words and actions such as this can, and do, have a hugely detrimental impact. On behalf of the force I want to extend our apologies to him.

"I would also like to reassure the wider community that we will not allow individuals to damage the good name built up by the vast majority of our officers who do an exemplary job and serve our communities with compassion, integrity and professionalism at all times.

"To that end we will continue to work closely with our LGBT+ network to discuss the issues this case has raised and to continue to ensure that our staff work with the highest ethics and integrity. Being a fully inclusive employer is one of our highest priorities and this will ensure that all our communities can have trust and confidence in the service we provide.

"This officer's conduct fell far below the standards we expect of everyone employed by Merseyside Police.

"During the hearing the officer said 'I am sorry for what I have done, I have not only let myself down, I have let down Mr A (the complainant), the wider community and the reputation of the force as a whole.'

"The officer also offered to meet with the member of the public to apologise for his actions and that offer has been accepted."