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Emails in Merseyside force probe `abhorrent' Investigation will take weeks.

Byline: ANDY KELLY

THE senior Merseyside Police officer leading the inquiry into alleged racist, homo phobic and pornographic em ails involving 35 staff has described some of the material as ``abhorrent''.

Assistant Chief Constable Grahame Barker is investigating 22 constables and support staff over the nature of material found in their Merseyside Police em ail account.

Last night, ACC Barker told the Daily Post: ``The vast majority of people would find this stuff abhorrent.

``My view is the racist images are at the upper end of the scale though I would stress there is not a lot of it.

``The bulk of the material consists of games, novelties, jokes, cartoons and that sort of thing. We've got a scale of how inappropriate material is. ''

ACC Barker said the inquiry would be far-reaching and would take some weeks, not including any disciplinary action which might follow.

The vast majority of the officers involved have not yet been spoken to nor interviewed.

``I have not suspended any individuals yet and they will probably not have been spoken to today. But obviously those who had this material know who they are. I think certainly some people will be having an uncomfortable night, '' said Mr Barker. He was not able to confirm rumours that any of the constables had recently attended the Bruche Training Centre in Warrington.

It was at the centre of a storm last year after an undercover reporter filmed racist behaviour among recruits including one wearing a Klu Klux Klan hood.

The offensive material was uncovered by ACC Barker during a random ``dip'' into Merseyside Police em ail accounts.

He said: ``We are very anxious that members of the organisation realise their em ail accounts must only be used for police-related business.

``It is obviously very useful for officers to have a professional em ail account and it is used extensively, but with that must come personal responsibility.

``I hope the fact that we have identified this and pro actively brought it to the attention of the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the media will be taken as a sign that we will tackle these important issues relentlessly and with vigour.

``The Chief Constable is of the same opinion as me that we must make sure our system is clear of this type of stuff. '' It is understood that anyone found to have distributed the higher-end racist material could face the sack.

Chief Constable Bernard Hogan-Howe said: ``We will use all the disciplinary measures available to us in the most appropriate way.

``This involves a very small minority of Merseyside Police and it is deeply unfortunate that the actions of a few have potentially soiled the force's reputation. ''

At a press conference yesterday, Cllr Bill Weightman, chairman of Merseyside Police Authority, said the images ranged from ``disgusting'' to ``minor jocular stuff''.

CAPTION(S):

Cllr Bill Weightman at yesterday's press conference
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Oct 29, 2004
Words:479
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