Hampshire police chief officer sacked for using derogatory term about travellers in WhatsApp message

A POLICE chief has been sacked after using a derogatory term used to describe travellers in a WhatsApp chat.

Friday, 12th February 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Friday, 12th February 2021, 1:44 pm

Chief Special Officer Tom Haye at Hampshire police admitted sending the offensive message to another special constable in a private conversation. But the Dutch speaker says that he used it without thinking through its derogatory meaning as it is similar to an inoffensive Dutch word.

The senior officer with 30 years’ experience had been accused of other misconduct breaches but these were dropped after his admission at a hearing on February 3.

Mr Haye, who plans to appeal his ‘disproportionate’ sacking, had more than 100 volunteer officers under his command in the Special Constabulary.

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Hampshire police's Chief Specials Officer Tom Haye. Picture: Paul Norris

He was sacked and placed on the police barred list by chief constable Olivia Pinkney, his line manager.

The message exchange involved the other special constable asking about Mr Haye’s house.

In one message Mr Haye said: ‘Of course not - it's your new home down south lol.’

A subsequent message from Mr Haye then included ‘keeps the (derogatory term) out,’ a police spokesman said.

Theresa May when home secretary visited the University in Portsmouth and met Chief Specials Officer Tom Haye, pictured right next to Mrs May. Picture: Sarah Standing (160101-1003)

Mr Haye told The News he had been unfairly sacked when compared to 20 officers who faced varying disciplinary actions following Basingstoke police investigation centre being bugged.

Investigators in Basingstoke recorded ‘homophobic, racist and sexist’ conversations at the station. Three people were dismissed.

IT expert Mr Haye said: ‘I would like to apologise for any offence given by this term.

‘It was said only once in a private conversation on WhatsApp with a friend.

Chief Specials Officer Tom Haye in 2016. Picture: Sarah Standing (160101-8413)

‘I am a bilingual Dutch national and, in haste, I used the term as a direct substitute for the Dutch word to steal – ‘Pikken’ – without properly thinking through its derogatory meaning in English. I refute I meant it in any pejorative manner.

‘At the time, there had been burglaries near where I lived. My friend was house sitting while I was away to deter any thieves and this was the context for the conversation.

‘I will be appealing this decision, which I feel is wholly disproportionate to what I did, especially in relation to other much more serious recent offences in Hampshire where police officers were not dismissed.

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‘I also have serious reservations about how this case has been handled by Hampshire Constabulary as it has taken almost two years to come to a conclusion.

‘Myself and my legal team also felt it was not appropriate the chief constable chaired the hearing following her recent involvement in those recent more serious misconduct offences. However, this objection was dismissed.

‘I have an exemplary record as a senior special constable spanning 30 years, volunteering thousands of hours to keep the communities of Hampshire safe.

‘Finally, I take comfort in the fact my friends and family know I am in no way prejudiced against anyone.’

Specials are unpaid and in the first lockdown 129 officers put in 4,380 hours in a single month in Hampshire.

Mr Haye previously called for ‘geeks of the IT world’ to join a programme he was leading asking industry experts to help fight cyber crime.

Former home secretary Theresa May visited the University in Portsmouth and met Mr Haye in 2016 as part of that initiative.

A Hampshire police statement said Mr Haye used a derogatory term for ‘members of the Romany Gypsies and Irish travellers’ community.

He admitted breaching the standard for authority, respect and courtesy and this amounted to gross misconduct, it added.

The statement said: ‘CSO Haye was dismissed without notice and placed on the barred list.’

Mr Haye last served as chief officer in July 2019. Regulations mean the chief constable had to chair the special case hearing, the force said.

A spokeswoman said: ‘The public should expect the highest standards from the officers and staff who are entrusted to keep them safe.

‘There is no place in policing for this type of behaviour. When it is raised we will take action and we will be open and transparent about it.’

Hampshire police was previously heavily criticised for an ‘appalling’ poster encouraging New Forest residents to boycott travellers’ businesses after an encampment was set up nearby.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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