A POLICE officer fined a 19-year-old for a Covid breach, then inputted her phone number on his own mobile phone without telling her and asked her that night if she was single and wanted to go out for a coffee.
A Dyfed-Powys Police misconduct hearing panel concluded that the actions of former special officer Jack Brennan amounted to gross misconduct and that he would have been dismissed had he not resigned before the hearing took place.
Dyfed-Powys Police’s legal representative, Stephen Morley, told the panel that Mr Brennan had been on duty on the night of June 4 last year when he and other officers came across a group of cars parked near a gym in Myrtle Hill, Carmarthen.
Mr Brennan and his colleague went to speak to two females in one of the cars.
Mr Morley said Mr Brennan, who did not attend the hearing, spoke to one of the two women – referred to as Ms A – for around 30 minutes, and issued her with a fixed penalty for breaking Covid rules.
“She felt a little bit intimidated – she felt he kept looking at her,” said Mr Morley.
“Mr Brennan said he thought she was behaving in a flirtatious manner.”
Ms A, he said, denied this.
Around an hour-and-a-half later, Mr Morley said Mr Brennan texted Ms A when off duty to ask if she had got home safely. There were then a “few jokes” made by text about the serving of the fixed penalty.
Mr Morley continued: “He said to Ms A that he was Jack – the better looking of the two officers – he said that was a joke.”
When Ms A said she didn’t mind that he was texting her, Mr Brennan immediately sent a text asking if she was single.
After more discussion, Mr Brennan texted: “How about I take you out for a coffee or something, after the restrictions ease obviously.”
When she replied to say she was “skint”, Mr Morley texted to say he would treat her, to which she replied: “One day, ha ha.”
Mr Morley said Ms A then asked how he had got her phone number, to which Mr Brennan replied: “The ticket, a little naughty of me I know, sorry.”
He also texted: “You seemed nice and I thought I would try my luck.”
Mr Morley said 24-year-old Mr Brennan, who had served as special officer for six years and reached the rank of sergeant, texted Ms A his Snapchat name.
She asked if he had broken the law by obtaining her phone number from the penalty notice, to which he replied: “Nah it’s fine, why?” Mr Morley said this was followed by an “x”, denoting a kiss.
He said Ms A did not respond after that.
“It’s clear from her statement that she was not happy,” said Mr Morley. “She was shocked and speechless.”
On receiving the “x” at the end of the text, Mr Morley said Ms A felt “uncomfortable, scared and intimidated”.
She reported the incident, which was investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). Mr Brennan resigned while under investigation. He faced three breaches of standards of professional behaviour, two of which he admitted to.
But he denied breaching honesty and integrity and/or discreditable conduct, and also felt his actions amounted to misconduct rather than gross misconduct.
The panel heard that Mr Brennan had apologised for what he had done and asked for that to be conveyed to Ms A. He said he had intended to pursue a friendship, not a sexual relationship with the 19-year-old. Mr Morley said Dyfed-Powys Police believed his actions were gross misconduct.
“Members of the public asked to give personal details to a police officer should be able to trust those officers – not so they can chat them up or ask them out on another occasion,” he said.
After retiring, the panel determined that Mr Brennan had breached the integrity element of the standards of professional behaviour as well as the other two, which related to confidentiality and authority, respect and courtesy.
Panel chairman Christopher McKay said: “He tried to take advantage of the situation where he had obtained personal information about Ms A during a legitimate police enquiry by then using it in an attempt to further a personal relationship with her which was specifically prohibited by police guidelines.”
The panel also decided that Mr Brennan’s actions constituted gross misconduct, and that he would have been dismissed had he still been serving.
“The gross misconduct which Mr Brennan committed in this case was particularly serious because it involved a data protection breach when he used information which was obtained for legitimate policing purposes for his own private improper purposes,” said Mr McKay.
Special officers have the same powers as police officers but are volunteers.
The panel recommended that Mr Brennan’s name was placed on the barred list, preventing him from working in law enforcement in the future.
After the hearing, IOPC director for Wales, Catrin Evans, said: “We found there was evidence the then special sergeant had made efforts to instigate an improper personal relationship with the young woman only a matter of minutes after having professional contact with her. She reported that she felt uncomfortable and intimidated by his unprofessional actions.
“The police service’s code of ethics makes clear that officers should not pursue an improper emotional relationship with a person they come into contact with in the course of their work, who may be vulnerable to an abuse of trust or power.”