Not Protectors, but Perpetrators: When the Police are the Online Hate Trolls

More evidence of ableist views amongst the Metropolitan Police comes to light as a group of police were found to be engaging in horrifically ableist discussions about Harvey Price, a Disabled man.

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Online abuse of Disabled people

In 2018, the Government’s Petition Select Committee took the unprecedented decision to hold an in-person consultation session with Disabled people following a petition set up by Harvey Price’s mother, Katie Price, about the abuse Harvey was subjected to, online. Inclusion London attended with Anne Novis MBE, which was right at the start of our hate crime project, which officially started that same year.

Since then, Inclusion London have been lobbying for legislative change and submitted numerous calls for evidence to the Home Office and UK Government, on issues affecting Disabled people and hate crime. We set up our own data and insight project as we realised that there was no in-depth data being gathered on the experiences of Disabled Londoners when trying to report hate crime to the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).


Our ‘Poor Police Response Report: Disabled Victims of hate crime’ report

Our report on what we found, led to a dedicated working group in the Metropolitan Police Service being set up to tackle the barriers to reporting that Disabled people told us about. The report was published in 2021. In it, we referenced the investigation at Charing Cross Police Station, where a discriminatory and abusive culture was uncovered that included WhatsApp messages making derogatory and demeaning comments about Disabled people. We made the statement that this incident, along with others across the country, indicated that ableist attitudes were held by some police officers and needed to be addressed. We made a list of recommendations to the statutory agencies involved in the Criminal Justice System that we felt would improve Disabled Londoners experience of reporting hate crime.

The recommendations included:

  • Specialist Equality Training led by people with lived experience and proactive recruitment of Disabled Police Officers.
  • For recruitment processes to include personality assessments to ensure recruits have the right attitude and values to serve the public and marginalised groups.
  • Prosecution of police officers dismissed for gross misconduct when involving Disabled people.
  • Make a public statement and put procedures in place to actively seek prosecution of police officers who have been involved in inappropriate behaviour, exploitation and abuse against Disabled people.
  • The CPS and MPS need to do more work together to understand the negative impact on the community if police officers who have assaulted, exploited or abused a Disabled person do not face criminal proceedings and to look at how those decisions are made and communicated to the Disabled community.


Police Whatsapp Group

On 21 February 2023, there was a misconduct hearing for a group of police officers mainly from Bexley area, who were part of a Whatsapp group that was found to include horrendously upsetting and derogatory language directed at Harvey Price, who is a Disabled man. The messages in question were made around the same time as the petition by Katie Price, 2016 – 2018. Not only was Mr Price being targeted by online trolls, he was being targeted by the police force that is there to protect him from harm.

There is a tendency to dismiss these Whatsapp groups as a means to ‘let off steam’ or ‘banter’. What we want to make clear is that for some police officers who hold discriminatory and prejudicial views about people from minority or marginalised groups; it gives them a place to hide and to spread their views in plain sight. This is obvious, when looking at more high profile cases, involving David Carrick and the murder of Sarah Everard.  Both these cases involved police colleagues who dismissed or overlooked abhorrent comments and attitudes. These views inform toxic culture, resulting in ableist attitudes and treatment of Disabled Londoners. Knowing that some police officers hold these views greatly affects our community confidence in the police. Our own data shows that of the people being supported by DDPOs to report hate crime, about 50% did not want to involve the police.

The sad fact is, ableist attitudes are part of a wider systemic issue that is bigger than just the police service. Disabled people often feel ‘worthless’ or ‘less than’ due to the attitudes and treatment of a whole range of institutions, agencies and services.


Reponse from the Metropolitan Police Service

Through our work with the MPS, CPS and the London Mayor’s Office for Police And Crime, as a challenging voice, we are pleased that some of our recommendations above have been taking shape. The MPS is going through a huge transformation with multiple working groups and projects being set up to root out discriminatory and unprofessional behaviour towards all marginalised and minority groups.

We welcome the opportunity to continue to work with agencies involved in the Criminal Justice System to raise the issues affecting Disabled Londoners and make recommendations on how to deal with those issues and rebuild trust with our community.


The key messages we have received from the MPS are:

  • We condemn the actions and behaviour of these officers
  • We are deeply sorry to Londoners and everyone they have hurt with their disgraceful and repulsive language and views
  • We know this will further damage trust and confidence in the Met
  • Under the leadership of Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley, everyone in the Met is clear that we must root out those who corrupt the integrity of our organisation
  • The public may, therefore, see more cases like this as we work hard to clean up the Met. This will be uncomfortable as we turn over the stones and uncover those who have let us down
  • Achieving high standards will take time, but we will be open and transparent about the progress we are making every step of the way
  • We will update at the end of March with the progress that we’ve made as we go step by step to tackle these issues and remove those that shouldn’t be serving as police officers