Final written warning for South Yorkshire cop who engaged in public fondling and "inappropriate" friendship with crime victim
A South Yorkshire Police officer whose behaviour constituted gross misconduct on two separate occasions has been given a final written warning.
After consideration of the guidance and over an hour of deliberation, the panel's legally qualified and independent chairman, Craig Hassell said they had come to the conclusion that a final written warning was the appropriate sanction for PC Darren Kimberley's gross misconduct.
He told the hearing that the panel's reasoning for taking that decision would be confirmed on a document to be drafted, and sent to PC Kimberley, following Tuesday's hearing. The Star has requested a copy of the document.
PC Darren Kimberley's gross misconduct took place when he was part of a dedicated neighbourhood policing team for a South Yorkshire shopping precinct.
His first proven allegation of gross misconduct related to a friendship he struck up with Witness A, a victim of theft who he met when he was the attending officer to the incident and took their statement.
During their first meeting in April 2015, when PC Kimberley was taking Witness A's statement, the pair shared details of the personal difficulties they were both experiencing at the time.
PC Kimberley gave Witness A his personal mobile number during their first meeting and from there, the pair developed a friendship that lasted until July 2018 and was described by Witness A as being an "emotional affair."
During their association with one another, the pair "kissed and cuddled" and Witness A gave PC Kimberley money, on more than one occasion, totalling between £500 and £600.
Representing PC Kimberley, Chloe Fairley, said Witness A gave the officer the money "freely," in the "context of a friendship" and during a time when he was struggling for money due to going through a divorce.
During his evidence on Monday, PC Kimberley told the hearing the money had been used to take his youngest child on holiday.
PC Kimberley also acknowledged that it was "inappropriate" to have started a friendship in that manner, but said he did not regret the friendship itself because of the support they were able to offer one another during a difficult period in both of their lives. He added that the aspect of their association he did regret was the circumstances their friendship was "borne out of."
Ms Fairley said that while PC Kimberley did ask Witness A to delete text messages they had sent to one another this was in order to prevent a "misunderstanding."
Addressing the panel on the seriousness of allegation one, Olivia Checa-Dover, representing the appropriate authority, said "The issue is when, on day one, there is the sharing of personal information and the pursuit of a personal connection; the problem isn't only that it might have a material effect on the investigation but it might also affect perception of the police by members of the public."
The second proven incident of gross misconduct took place in January last year, when a member of the public reported seeing PC Kimberley in an embrace with Witness B in a public place, while he was dressed in his police uniform.
The member of the public noted that Witness B was youthful looking, but the hearing was told that they are in their mid-20s, and had not met PC Kimberley through his work.
The hearing heard that the incident took place 10 minutes before he was due to finish his shift and was also captured on CCTV.
Mr Hessell said: "There is no dispute that it [wearing full uniform when off-duty] is not allowed, and that the officer knew that."
The press were not shown the available CCTV of the incident but it was described by Mr Hassell. He said: "We could see the officer sitting very close to Witness B. They were feeling each other for much of the footage. They were close enough that Witness B's legs were in between the officers knees for most of that footage. Witness B could be seen reaching out to touch PC Kimberley and his arms and his legs, particularly his thighs."
Ms Fairley said that during the time of the two instances of gross misconduct, PC Kimberley had not felt "up to addressing personal difficulties" and the effect they were having on his "personal judgement and mental health."
She said he has subsequently sought help both from his GP and occupationaloccupational health.
Ms Fairley told the panel there were options available to them to sanction PC Kimberley that would allow South Yorkshire Police to retain a "talented" and "dedicated" officer with 18 years of service.
Neither Witness A or Witness B can be named for legal reasons.