UK Policeman Jailed for Sharing George Floyd Memes

A former police constable has been sentenced to 20 weeks in jail after sharing a series of racist WhatsApp memes, including images that mocked the death of George Floyd.

James Watt, 31, worked for West Mercia Police when he sent ten offensive memes in a group chat on WhatsApp in May and June 2020, including one with a white dog wearing Ku Klux Klan clothing and another showing a kneeling mat with Floyd’s face printed on it.

Watts also sent offensive images about Floyd’s death, including pictures of George of the Jungle and the children’s game ‘Guess Who’. 

Tan Ikram, the deputy chief magistrate, sentenced Watts at Birmingham magistrates court on Tuesday and said he had ‘undermined the confidence the public has in the police’.

“At the time of these offenses, you were a police officer, a person to whom the public looks up to uphold the law, but you did the opposite. Your behavior brings the criminal justice system as a whole into disrepute. The hostility that you demonstrated on the basis of race makes this offending so serious that I cannot deal with it by a community penalty or a fine,” Ikram said.

Police Professional News reported that Derrick Campbell, the Independent Office for Police Conduct regional director, said the offensive photos Watt shared are bound to have caused significant reputational damage to police.

“We note the prison sentence imposed on former West Mercia Police officer James Watts today after he earlier pleaded guilty to sharing grossly offensive, racist material via WhatsApp. The content of these messages will disturb many people both within and outside the police service. Today’s outcome must act as a stark reminder that this behavior, particularly from a police officer, is unacceptable. It is important officers understand it is irrelevant whether such activity takes place on or off duty, or in a private or public social media network – the conduct is likely to face serious disciplinary or criminal consequences.” Campbell said.

Joann Jinks, 41, is another West Mercia police constable that will stand on trial at Westminster magistrates court on August 23, charged with three counts of the same offense.

The Guardian reported that the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) announced in April 2022 that charges had been brought against Watts and Jinks under the Communications Act 2003.

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