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Hertfordshire Police officer who sold trousers on Vinted says “It was a mistake”

Selling police issue trousers on Vinted for £4 amounts to gross misconduct, Hertfordshire’s police chief has ruled.

Former inspector 746 Owen Hurley admitted he sold a single item of uniform on the second-hand selling app in summer 2023, which a member of the public had reported to the force.

He said the trousers had been in his wardrobe at home for “a long time” and he wanted to “make space” after redecorating. Chief Constable Charlie Hall has ruled the former inspector will be reduced to the rank of sergeant, effective immediately.

At a misconduct hearing on Tuesday, February 6, Sergeant Hurley said: “It was a mistake.

“I should have thought through the process but I just did it instinctively at the time.”

He added “it wasn’t about money” and said: “It was only when PSD (professional standards department) made me aware that I actually thought about how gross a mistake it was.”

The sergeant confirmed the trousers did not bear a police logo or insignia, but confessed to writing a listing on Vinted which indicated they were police issue. He denied the incident amounted to gross misconduct and confirmed he engaged “proactively” in the probe into his behaviour.

Facing questions from Chief Constable Charlie Hall, Sergeant Hurley said members of the public and his colleagues would likely view the incident as a “stupid mistake, doing something without thinking”.

The police chief found Sergeant Hurley had ordered two new pairs of police trousers in January 2023, which were the same size as the items listed on Vinted.

Sergeant Hurley said the old trousers were a poor fit.

Counsel on behalf of the officer said: “Had it been something more overtly identifiable as police uniform, for example a jacket or helmet, something bearing a logo, then I would suggest that is something that would bring discredit to the force.”

His team urged the force’s chief for a “distinction made between clearly identifiable police issue property and things that are not so identifiable.”

They added “not every mistake is unethical” and argued that in selling the item in his own name, Sergeant Hurley had never tried to conceal his behaviour in a way which suggested deliberate wrongdoing.

They said the former inspector is “highly thought of” by his colleagues. He had served for 15 years and was described as “reliable” and “respected” in a bundle of evidence handed to the chief constable.

Speaking to Chief Constable Hall, counsel said: “As serious as you have found it, this is still [just] one incident.”

Representatives of the appropriate authority – which brought the case forward – said Sergeant Hurley had not shown integrity, which is a “nebulous” but “fundamental” policing concept.

They said although the facts of the case are “not close to premeditation or planning”, they amounted to “more than just a simple mistake”.

Chief Constable Hall ruled Sergeant Hurley had breached the professional standards of integrity, discreditable conduct, and duties and responsibilities.

“A member of the public was sufficiently angry to report this,” he said.

“You have described it as a mistake.

“I would describe it as stupid.”

Hertfordshire’s police chief told Sergeant Hurley the trousers “were not yours to sell” and were originally purchased using public funds.

He said: “This is clearly an act the public disapproves of.

“The public rightly expects higher standards from the constabulary.”

Chief Constable Hall said taking no action may result in “a slippery slope – one that I cannot allow to get a foothold”.

He said dismissal “is not proportionate” but a reduction in rank to sergeant recognises that the former inspector’s line management role is an aggravating factor in the case.

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