Police officers named area where black colleague sat 'African corner'

Police officers in ‘toxic’ organised crime unit with ‘abhorrent racist culture’ named part of their office where black colleague sat ‘African corner’, tribunal hears

  • The squad placed Africa map above area where two men of African heritage sat
  • DS Greg Willcox said he thought nickname African Corner ‘was a positive thing’
  • The two officers – one of whom is white – were from Ghana and South Africa
  • Six officers facing tribunal are from Hampshire’s Serious Organised Crime Unit

A specialist police crime unit with an ‘abhorrent racist culture’ named a section of its office ‘African Corner’, a misconduct hearing was told today.

The squad had placed a map of the continent above the area in the office where two men of African heritage sat and it had apparently been ‘defaced’. 

DS Greg Willcox told the hearing he thought the term ‘African Corner’ was a nickname with ‘positive’ connotations.

The two officers, DC Solomon Koranteng, and PC Craig Bannerman, who is white, were from Ghana and South Africa respectively. 

DC Koranteng was the unit’s only black officer.   

Six officers from Hampshire Police’s Serious Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) office in Basingstoke are accused of either making ‘abhorrent’ comments, or not challenging others when those remarks were made.

After an anonymous tip off, investigators bugged the unit’s office and began monitoring their WhatsApp messages and emails. 

All six officers now face a three-week tribunal in Winchester during which the unit has been dubbed ‘ableist, sexist, racist, transphobic and homophobic’.

At the misconduct hearing, held at Eastleigh Fire Hampshire Police HQ, one female officer said: ‘I didn’t trust Willcox as far as I could throw him’.

Giving evidence, DS Willcox, who has been in the force for nearly 27 years, today said: ‘The African Corner map was on a whiteboard nearest to DC Koranteng.

‘It was blue-tacked to the whiteboard.

‘I was aware of the corner of the office called African Corner. I don’t think it was funny. It wasn’t designed to be humorous.

‘I believe it was created by Bannerman or Koranteng to reflect their background and culture.

‘I thought it was a positive thing. Both DC Koranteng and PC Bannerman would regularly talk about their experiences and cultures.

‘They would bring food in to try and share their culture with the team.’

Six officers from Hampshire Police’s Serious Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) office in Basingstoke are accused of either making ‘abhorrent’ comments, or not challenging others when those remarks were made (file image of Hampshire Police and Investigation Centre)  

The unit’s youngest officer, DC Michael Higgins said he heard DS Willcox and the unit’s boss Detective Inspector Timothy Ireson refer to DC Koranteng and PC Bannerman as ‘the Africans’ and said they encouraged the ‘toxic’ culture in the office.

DS Willcox said he viewed the two men, who he had worked with for a number of years, as ‘close friends’ and he was not aware of any ‘defacing’ of the map.

The hearing was previously told that officers within the team believed DI Timothy Ireson, was ‘led by DS Willcox’ and offered ‘no leadership’.

Giving evidence yesterday, DI Ireson said: ‘Greg has a sense of humour which you might say gets him into trouble on occasion.’

He denied that he was unable to control the detective.

Another Detective Sergeant, Oliver Lage, who is also accused of misconduct, was recorded saying that ‘Tim doesn’t manage Greg. He doesn’t manage full stop’.

DS Willcox is also accused of telling a junior officer to lie about her overtime as ‘it was major crimes and no one would care about the budget.’

On another occasion he was overheard saying a female member of staff ‘smells’ and ‘brings [in a] KFC in a bucket that she slops to her horses’.

A junior officer, DC Jean Englefield had spoken to DS Lage about DS Willcox and was heard on the recordings to have said: ‘I just feel very vulnerable, I can’t talk to Greg [DS Willcox], I don’t trust him as far as I can throw him.’

Later, when interviewed she said: ‘This whole situation has arisen through poor leadership…[the] culture in a team derives from its leaders and [DS Willcox] was the leader of the team.’

The six officers accused of gross misconduct are Detective Inspector Timothy Ireson, Detective Sergeant Oliver Lage, Detective Sergeant Gregory Willcox, trainee Detective Constable Andrew Ferguson, PC James Oldfield, and PC Craig Bannerman.

The hearing is being viewed by members of the press via video link in Winchester, Hanmpshire.

The six officers within the unit are accused of either making ‘abhorrent’ comments, or not challenging others when those remarks were made.

DS Willcox is also accused of falsely recording hours and overtime.

The hearing has been told DI Ireson has retired and PC Bannerman has resigned since the covert recordings were made at the force’s serious organised crime unit between March 9 2018 and April 2 2018.

The police officers all admit misconduct but deny gross misconduct. The hearing continues.

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