A police officer has been charged with a criminal offence for allegedly sending a grossly offensive meme of George Floyd to colleagues in a WhatsApp group.
Sgt Geraint Jones, 47, from the Devon and Cornwall force in south-west England, will appear in court later this month.
The image of Floyd, whose killing by police in the US sparked worldwide protests over racial injustice, was alleged to have been altered and sent to fellow police officers and staff.
The officer is alleged to have shared the image on 30 May, five days after Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The Guardian understands a white fellow officer in the same force reported the image within 48 hours of it being sent.
Jones has been suspended from duty since June.
Section 127 of the 2003 Communications Act makes it an offence to send a message that “is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character”.
The case was investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct. The watchdog said: “Sergeant Geraint Jones, aged 47, is charged with sending the image on 30 May last year by means of a public electronic communications network, an offence contrary to section 127 of the Communications Act 2003.
“An altered image of George Floyd’s arrest in Minneapolis was shared within a WhatsApp group that included a number of other police officers and staff.
“Our investigation began in June 2020 following a referral from the force. At its conclusion in October we sent our investigation report to the Crown Prosecution Service, which has authorised the charge.”
The officer is scheduled to appear at Newton Abbot magistratescourt on 28 January.
The IOPC has also investigated other officers who received the allegedly offensive meme for potential disciplinary offences. It will make those findings public after the conclusion of criminal proceedings, which take precedent.
The Guardian revealed in June that an investigation had been launched into the sending of the image.
Jim Nye, a Devon and Cornwall assistant chief constable, said in June: “Devon and Cornwall police wholly appreciate the concern our communities will have regarding an investigation of this kind. I would reassure them that I, and the chief constable, will do everything possible to ensure the matter is dealt with effectively and in a timely manner.”
When the investigation became public, Catrin Evans of the IOPC said: “It will be of considerable public concern that such an image was apparently shared among colleagues by a serving police officer.”
Floyd died after a US officer knelt on his neck in an incident that was caught on video, and which convulsed the US and led to more than 250,000 protesting in the UK against racial injustice.