A British police officer who posted a “grossly offensive” image on Facebook of the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu alongside Adolf Hitler has been allowed to keep his job.
A day-long disciplinary hearing – held in public – at GMP’s headquarters was told PC Shah ‘only apologised when he was interviewed’ about the post.
His posting appeared in the course of an online debate between officers about the conflict in Gaza and was spotted by two Jewish police officers who reported the Rochdale-based PC to GMP bosses.
The Professional Standards Branch of Greater Manchester Police initially had recommended the officer should face ‘misconduct’ rather rather ‘gross misconduct’ proceedings, meaning he could not have been sacked, as the privacy settings were at maximum, no members of the public were likely to view the image and that it his Facebook profile did not make clear Shah was a police officer.
This was over-ruled nine months later by Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan, who instigated the more serious proceedings which could have resulted in dismissal.
Shah, who served with the Royal Logistics Corps in Bosnia before joining the police and is married with children, had not been taking part in the debate on a “private” Facebook page until he posted the picture.
The officer had previously been in trouble for his Facebook postings having been given “words of advice” after including a picture of the bereaved family beside murdered Fusilier Lee Rigby’s grave.
ACC Shewan said of the Netanyahu incident: “He caused offence to members of the Jewish community, failed to show initially that he accepted what he had done was wrong and showed he had failed to learn lessons from a previous warning about what he had posted on Facebook.”
Shah will receive a formal written warning and was ordered to do diversity and social media training.
Shah, whose parents came to the UK from Pakistan in the 1950s, removed the image, the hearing was told.
Barrister Julian King, representing Shah, said his client had intended to “add some balance” to the debate but had “wholly failed”.
He added: “It’s quite clear this officer has considered quite clearly the mistakes he has made and accepted them and he is determined not to repeat them.”
Panel chairman Clare Hockney said Shah had made an “early admission, apologised in his interview and accepted it was an error of judgment”, adding that he had shown remorse.
Jonny Wineberg, vice-president of the Greater Manchester Jewish Representative Council, said: “It is disappointing to hear that a serving police officer has behaved in this way. What he did was anti-Semitic and racist.
“I think he should now make an effort to get involved and embrace all the diverse communities in the area.”