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Two Sussex officers dismissed after PC’s inappropriate relationship

PC David Mendes and Sgt Victoria Ambrose were dismissed without notice.

A PC and his supervisor have both been dismissed without notice after the former established an inappropriate relationship with a woman he met through duty.

In February 2020, the woman reported being harassed by a former partner. Her statement was taken by PC David Mendes, 46, who was based at Hastings police station.

Sergeant Victoria Ambrose, 46, was a personal friend of the woman and became PC Mendes’ supervisor in April 2020.

She added PC Mendes to a WhatsApp group where the woman was also a member.

In May 2020, the woman (a victim of domestic violence) messaged the group saying she had baked a cake for Sgt Ambrose who had injured her hand.

The woman then sent PC Mendes a private message offering him a cake, which he collected the following day.

Two weeks later, PC Mendes moved in with her as she was renting out a spare room.

A nine-month IOPC investigation found that the woman had informed Sgt Ambrose that PC Mendes had moved in with her.

Sgt Ambrose then made misleading notes in her notebook later that month, omitting the fact that PC Mendes was staying with the woman by stating that he was 'sofa surfing' with friends.

The following month, PC Mendes and the woman attended a barbecue - hosted by Sgt Ambrose - where they acted 'like a couple'.

A hearing held last week heard that Sgt Ambrose failed to challenge or report PC Mendes’ conduct despite being aware that that pair had met through his policing duties and that he had formed an inappropriate relationship with her when she was in a vulnerable position

When interviewed by the IOPC, PC Mendes claimed that Sgt Ambrose told him she would “play clever” by giving the vetting department false accounts of the relationship and encouraged him to do the same.

A separate IOPC investigation also found that Sgt Ambrose had attended a police incident involving the woman’s daughter at a hospital in 2017 and, in doing so, neglected her duties by not declaring her personal knowledge of the family and reporting a potential conflict of interest.

She also gave a false account of her role in this matter.

Both officers have been dismissed for gross misconduct have been placed on the barred list.

Chief Superintendent Steve Rayland, head of Sussex Police's Professional Standards Department, said: "We expect our officers and staff to act in accordance with the Code of Ethics and the Standards of Professional Behaviour. The actions of these officers fell far short of these which is reflected in the findings by the panel.

“The unacceptable conduct that has been heard here will not be tolerated but this poor behaviour should not overshadow the hard work by the vast majority of our officers, staff and volunteers within Sussex Police."

IOPC Regional Director Mel Palmer said: "When officers abuse their position for a sexual purpose, it threatens to undermine the public’s trust that the vast majority of officers work extremely hard to build.

"PC Mendes met this woman through the course of his duties and then started communicating via a WhatsApp group. He then failed to report that he was in a relationship with her.

"PS Ambrose was an experienced officer in a position of responsibility and after learning of the officer’s inappropriate relationship with a victim of crime, she should have challenged or promptly reported the matter. She also lied to the vetting department, failing to give the full extent of her knowledge of the situation to them.”

Meanwhile a third officer, former PC Sally Agutter, was cleared of allegations relating to discreditable conduct and challenging and reporting improper conduct.

The three officers had been placed on non-public facing duties. 

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