A former British police constable has been sentenced to 20 weeks in prison for sending a series of racist memes about the death of George Floyd on a WhatsApp group.
James Watts, 31, shared posts in a group chat in May and June 2020 involving former colleagues in the prison he worked for.
At the time of posting, Watts was working for West Mercia Police, south-west of Birmingham, England.
He resigned after the police started investigating the posts. He was charged with 10 counts of sending grossly offensive messages, one of which featured a white dog dressed in Ku Klux Klan clothing, another showing a kneeling mat with Floyd’s face, and cartoon characters There were jokes about Floyd’s death using pictures of George of the Jungle. And the children’s game Guess Who, The Guardian reported.
Floyd, a black man, was murdered in May 2020 by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes. His death caused an international outcry over police brutality.
Sentencing Watts on Tuesday at Birmingham Magistrates Court, Deputy Chief Magistrate Tan Ikram said he had “undermined public confidence in the police”, according to The Guardian.
“At the time of these crimes, you were a police officer – a person the public looks up to to uphold the law – but you did the opposite,” he said, The Guardian reported.
“Your behavior completely defames the criminal justice system. The hostility you have shown on the basis of race makes this crime so serious that I cannot deal with it with community punishment or fines.”
As the BBC reports, the judge also said that he has “no doubt” that Watts may have received training regarding diversity and inclusion during his tenure as a prison officer.
According to The Worcester News, Watts’ name has also been added to the College of Policing’s barred list, banning him from any policing role nationwide for life.
Amid public scrutiny of police behavior in the wake of Floyd’s death, several law enforcement officers in several US states have faced consequences – though not as dire – for posting racist messages and memes on their personal social media pages. Some were fired or investigated for harassing online behavior.