An Essex Police officer who sent racist and homophobic messages to friends has been found guilty of gross misconduct.

PC David Alston sent several messages where he made racist, homophobic and offensive comments within a WhatsApp group between March and June 2017.

He also failed to challenge a racist comment made in a message sent to him and was found to have sent and been in possession of extreme pornography video clips.

A panel led by Independent Legally Qualified Chair, Siobhan Goodrich, found PC Alston breached the Standards of Professional Behaviour in relation to ‘Discreditable Conduct’.

The Essex Police misconduct hearing took place at Chelmsford Civic Centre between Monday, April 15 and Tuesday, April 16.

PC Alston was suspended after the messages were discovered and the panel ruled that he was to be dismissed without notice.

Detective Superintendent Dean Chapple, Head of the Essex Police Professional Standards Department, said: “Racism and homophobia is absolutely disgusting and has no place in our society, let alone within the police force.

“PC Alston was a highly respected and capable officer however his conduct, whilst off duty and in the presence of selected friends who were not associated with policing, fell way below the standards we expect of our officers and in no way represents our values.

“All police officers are responsible for their own actions and we cannot just turn off those standards and values in policing when it suits a given environment or group.

“His actions, and the views he expressed, have no place in Essex Police.

Superintendent Chapple said Alston’s actions can damage police relationships with minority communities and could discourage people from reporting crime or even applying to work for them.

“Staff support networks – such as the Minority Ethnic Support Association (MESA), the Disability Network, the LGBT Network, and the Women’s Leadership Development Forum (WLDF) – help to improve our understanding of minority issues and ensure they’re reflected through our work,” he added.

“We also work with Independent Advisory Groups (IAGs) who provide advice, insight, and practical assistance around issues such as race, faith and issues affecting the LGBT community.”

PCSO Macdonald Neife, MESA chair said: “We have worked closely with colleagues at all levels in Essex Police, including the Chief Constable, and have seen first-hand the positive direction Essex Police takes with diversity and inclusion.

“We are not aware of any systemic racist or negative cultural behaviour, but would encourage any colleagues who are aware of unacceptable behaviour to report this through the channels available, including the Professional Standards Department, Fairplay Advisers, Unison, Federation and MESA.”

Neil Woodbridge chair of the Essex-wide IAG said: “I have been a member of the Thurrock IAG for the police for over ten years and was recently voted in as the Chair of the overarching Essex wide group.

“We are all independent volunteers running locally based IAG’s (11 in total) who have a keen interest in ensuring the police work well in our local Communities.

“Obviously I was disappointed to hear about the alleged behaviour of the PC recently disciplined.

“For me personally I have found that Essex police consistently try their hardest to show a keen understanding that they work for all the community of Essex.

Mr Woodbridge said the disrespectful behaviour makes him feel “saddened and that current senior officers are very aware of the level of professionalism expected.

“I have always found the officers of all ranks that we deal with to have a keenness to learn from their diverse communities and a deep desire to ensure the Essex police service is representative of the communities they work for (see their current You Tube adverts),” he explained.

“As Independent Advisor we are happy to work in partnership with them and we will speak up loudly for our communities if there is discrimination”.