A former West Mercia Police officer has been jailed for sending racist WhatsApp messages following the death of George Floyd in 2020.

James Watts has been sentenced to 20 weeks in prison after admitting 10 counts of sending grossly offensive messages.

The 32-year-old, of Castle Bromwich in Birmingham, sent the messages to a group chat from his private phone in May and June of 2020.

Four memes sent by Watts referred to George Floyd and the protests that were taking place in the States at the time.

After the messages came to light in June 2020, West Mercia Police referred the case to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

At the time of the offences, he was a probationary police constable with the force, based in Droitwich.

Officer resigned from West Mercia Police over racist messages

Watts resigned from the force while the investigation was ongoing.

An Accelerated Misconduct Hearing was held where it was found that he would have been dismissed, had he not already resigned. His name has also been added to the College of Policing’s barred list, banning him from any policing role across the country for life.

Speaking after today’s hearing, deputy chief constable Julian Moss said: “I welcome the sentencing today and the custodial sentence, which shows the gravity of the offence.

“This case shows we are committed to rooting out any racist behaviour within the force, whether it takes place on or off duty. There is absolutely no place for these attitudes or this behaviour within West Mercia Police.

“James Watts let down the communities he served and his colleagues by his grossly offensive behaviour. The force will not tolerate it, our officers will not tolerate it, I will not tolerate it.”

George Floyd was an African-American man who was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during an arrest after a store clerk suspected Floyd may have used a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill, on May 25, 2020.

Derek Chauvin, one of four police officers who arrived on the scene, knelt on Floyd's neck and back for nine minutes and 29 seconds.

After his murder, protests against police brutality, especially towards black people, quickly spread across the United States and globally. His dying words, "I can't breathe," became a rallying cry.