Despite the severity of the alleged offences, the majority – including several senior members – received only disciplinary action, according to an investigation by the Daily Mail. But the paper noted that the actual figure was likely to be far higher, since only 32 of the 44 police forces in England, Wales, and Scotland responded to its Freedom of Information requests.

According to the report, only a small fraction – 53 individuals – of at least 999 police force officers and employees accused by colleagues or members of the public over the past six years are no longer on the job. Nearly three quarters of the allegations were reportedly judged to be serious enough to warrant some type of disciplinary action.

Hundreds were reported for allegedly posting disturbing material on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, while others were accused of sending explicit photos to colleagues, and even sharing sexual content with underage and vulnerable victims.

The Met recorded the highest number of allegations, registering 277 complaints against its personnel, despite only providing the newspaper with data for the past year. The UK’s largest police force has come in for increased scrutiny following the conviction of former Met officer Wayne Couzens for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Sarah Everard.

Chief Constable Craig Guildford, the standards spokesman for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, told the paper that the body was “aware of rare cases” where inappropriate material had been shared, but noted that only a “very small number of staff think this is acceptable.”

The figures come in the wake of revelations that Couzens had exchanged degrading content with colleagues on WhatsApp before he attacked Everard in March. The serving police officers – apparently including three from the Met Police – who shared messages with Couzens are now under criminal investigation.

Former Met Police Detective Superintendent Paige Kimberley recently accused UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick of ignoring her reports about a “vulgar and sexist” WhatsApp group apparently similar to the one used by Couzens.

Kimberly had said the group was “aggressive and inappropriate” and included graphic images which displayed “very misogynistic and sexist” attitudes towards women. She also claimed to have raised her concerns of a “flourishing sexist environment” in the force with Cressida Dick in March.

In July, a total of 12 misconduct or gross-misconduct notices were handed to serving police officers by the Independent Officer for Police Conduct in relation to the investigation on Couzens. Three officers received gross-misconduct notices after sharing an “inappropriate graphic” via social media before manning the cordon on the scene of the search for Everard.

The police watchdog had also issued another notice for gross misconduct and an additional six notices for misconduct to officers who allegedly “breached standards of professional behaviour” by sharing details related to Couzens’ prosecution in private messages.

Meanwhile, a recent investigation by the iNews outlet found that a total of 771 Met Police officers and staff have faced sexual misconduct allegations over the past 11 years. Over the same period, 163 Met officers were apparently arrested for various sexual offences – with 38 convicted in court.

However, the news outlet reported last week that only 83 of the accused officers have been dismissed since 2010 – citing data, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, from January 1, 2010 to May 31, 2021. The sexual misconduct allegations reportedly range from sexual harassment to sexual assault, rape, and using a position of power for sexual gain.