Today (Tuesday 14 June) a former West Mercia Police officer has been sentenced to 20 weeks in prison after entering a guilty plea to sending grossly offensive messages in a WhatsApp group chat.

At an earlier hearing James Watts, 32, of Castle Bromwich in Birmingham pleaded guilty to 10 counts of the offence. He admitted to sending racially discriminatory messages on his personal phone, including images, in May and June of 2020. Four “memes” sent by Watts referred to George Floyd and the protests that were taking place in the States at the time.

After the messages came to light in June 2020 the force referred the case to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

At the time of the offences he was a probationary police constable with the force, based in Droitwich.

Watts resigned from the force whilst the investigation was on going. An Accelerated Misconduct Hearing was held where it was found that he would have been dismissed, had he not already resigned. His name has also been added to the College of Policing’s barred list, banning him from any policing role across the country for life.

Speaking after today’s hearing Deputy Chief Constable Julian Moss said: “I welcome the sentencing today and the custodial sentence, which shows the gravity of the offence. 

“This case shows we are committed to rooting out any racist behaviour within the force, whether it takes place on or off duty. There is absolutely no place for these attitudes or this behaviour within West Mercia Police.

“James Watts let down the communities he served and his colleagues by his grossly offensive behaviour. The force will not tolerate it, our officers will not tolerate it, I will not tolerate it.”