South Yorkshire cop reported after being caught fondling person in public while in uniform
A South Yorkshire Police officer committed gross misconduct through an "inappropriate" relationship he had with a crime victim he met through his job and for being physically close with a second person while dressed in uniform in a public place.
The misconduct hearing's panel found Police Constable Darren Kimberley's behaviour amounted to gross misconduct in the two allegations he faces and are set to make a judgement on the appropriate sanction for his gross misconduct on Tuesday, November 24.
The hearing on Monday, November 23 was told that PC Kimberley admitted to the allegations brought against him, and while he acknowledged his behaviour constituted misconduct he denied that it amounted to gross misconduct, which is more serious and could result in dismissal from South Yorkshire Police.
The hearing heard that PC Kimberley was an officer for a dedicated Neighbourhood Policing Team at one of the county's shopping precincts where officers are “particularly recognisable” to residents in the area when both allegations took place.
Allegation one relates to his relationship with Witness A, who he met when they were the victim of a theft in April 2015. PC Kimberley was the attending officer and took a statement from Witness A following the incident. He gave them his personal number, and told them to contact him on that number, while the criminal investigation was still ongoing.
PC Kimberley said he had a "laugh and a joke" with Witness A while taking their statement, and the pair discussed the difficulties they had both been experiencing in their personal lives.
He told the hearing that he emerged from his first interaction with Witness A feeling better about himself and wanting to forge a friendship with them, and gave them his personal number in order to separate their social relationship from the ongoing criminal investigation.
Following this, the pair developed a friendship that lasted between April 2015 and July 2018.
During the course of their association with each other, the pair "kissed and cuddled" and Witness A gave PC Kimberley money on more than one occasion, totalling between £500 and £600, the hearing heard.
PC Kimberley said Witness A "gifted" him the money "months and months" after they first met - and when their friendship was already well-established - so he could take his youngest child on holiday.
PC Kimberley said that while he did not regret the friendship with Witness A, because they had both offered the other support, he "regrets deeply how that friendship was borne out." He acknowledged it was "inappropriate" to begin a friendship in such a manner.
Representing the appropriate authority, Olivia Cheka-Dover said the incident had left Witness A “scared and shaken up”.
She added: “As an attending officer to a crime, it was or should have been obvious that it was not the appropriate landscape for starting a relationship.”
Ms Cheka-Dover asked PC Kimberley: "Can you see the problem, upon attending a victim of crime, sharing your own personal issues with that victim?"
He responded: "Yes, I can...it's unprofessional for a start. Being there in a professional capacity to take a statement, I shouldn't have been having a conversation about my personal life."
Ms Cheka-Dover added: "Do you see the potential for an imbalance of power when you're there as a professional, and they're there as a victim of crime?"
PC Kimberley, who has worked as a police officer for South Yorkshire Police since 2002, responded: "I do now. At the time it was a personal conversation. I was doing the writing [of their statement] so they were asking questions."
Allegation two relates to PC Kimberley's conduct with Witness B during an incident in a public place in January 2019 around 10 minutes before he was about to finish his shift and was still wearing his police uniform.
The press were not shown the available CCTV of the incident but it was described by legally qualified and independent panel chairman, Craig 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."
The hearing heard that the incident was brought to the attention of South Yorkshire Police by a member of the public who witnessed some of the interaction between the two and had noted that Witness B looked youthful.
Witness B was confirmed to be in their mid 20s and had not met PC Kimberley through his work, the hearing heard.
Mr Hessell said: "There is no dispute that it [wearing full uniform when off-duty] is not allowed, and that the officer knew that."
PC Kimberley told the hearing he felt "embarrassed" to watch the CCTV footage back and accepted the way in which a member of the public could have interpreted his interaction with Witness B.
He told the hearing that his actions amounted to an "error in judgement." He said: "I haven't gone in thinking: 'Right I can do this, I don't care what people think about me'."
Neither witness can be named for legal reasons.
The hearing continues.