A police officer has been fired after deciding not to go to help a young suicidal woman and instead driving to Homebase in his force car to get a part for his hot tub. PC Tristan Hankins was dismissed without notice after members of a misconduct panel found his actions amounted to gross misconduct.
PC Hankins, who joined Devon and Cornwall Police in 1995, faced allegations that on June 2, 2020, he advised the control room that he would be free shortly to attend the emergency. He then continued to run a personal errand before attending the incident, reports DevonLive.
His actions have been found to have breached the standards of professional behaviour in respect of honesty and integrity, authority, respect and courtesy, discreditable conduct and duties and responsibilities. A report into the incident reads: “The officer had bought a hot tub for home use, but this had come with a missing part, the mat that went underneath it so that water spilled onto the floor.
“This was a nuisance and he, therefore, contacted Homebase, the shop where it had come from, on the evening of Monday, June 1, and they confirmed that the mat would be available for collection over the next 48 hours. The officer started his shift on Tuesday, June 2, at 3pm.
“He was on patrol in his police vehicle with SPC Pascoe. He tells us, and we have no reason to doubt, that he was showing her the boundaries of his area of responsibility but there is no doubt, and he admits, that he decided to go about three miles ‘off patch’ in order to collect the mat from Homebase.
“This was running a personal errand whilst on duty which, of course, he ought not to have been doing. The seriousness of the case arises out of the act that as he was setting off in the direction of the shop, an emergency call came through from control which required his immediate attention.
“A young female, who we assume to be a teenager, with mental health difficulties was in a highly agitated condition and was threatening suicide. However, instead of abandoning his planned trip to Homebase and setting off promptly to answer the call using the emergency blue light on his car, he told the controller that he would be free to attend the emergency ‘very, very shortly’ and proceeded to Homebase to collect his mat before answering the emergency.
“That was plainly untrue. He, therefore, arrived at the scene of the incident somewhere between five and 10 minutes later than he would otherwise have done.”
The report confirms ‘no actual harm’ was done to the young suicidal woman, but the potential for harm was ‘considerable’. It has not been confirmed where PC Hankins was based. The allegations were admitted by the officer. The hearing concluded he had breached the expected standards of professional behaviour.
Head of professional standards, detective superintendent Paul Kessell said: “We expect our officers to uphold the standards of professional behaviour at all times and the actions of the officer fell below these standards on this occasion. He did not fulfil his duties and responsibilities and his behaviour brought discredit upon the police service and could undermine public confidence.
“Such behaviour will not be tolerated within policing and the decision made by the panel was that the officer should be dismissed without notice.”
The misconduct panel hearing reported states PC Hankins’s conduct was ‘deliberate, intentional, and planned’ in that he ordered the mat for the hot tub at home the evening before he started his shift, and it was his aim to divert from his patrol in order to run the errand.
The report states: “He did not know of course that he would get a call to attend an emergency while on his way to Homebase to collect it but he had the opportunity to accept the call and attend to the person in distress. Counsel for the Officer described his client as having taken himself off duty in his mind but we find that to be an aggravating feature not a mitigating one.
“Running an errand while on duty would, as admitted, have amounted to misconduct rather than gross misconduct but then to have continued on that course of action and told a deliberate lie to the control room in order to complete it is a different order of magnitude.
“The dishonesty in telling the control room that he would be free to respond very shortly when in fact he was professionally available at the very moment he took the call is at the heart of this case.”