A detective who “pinged a ruler” across a female colleague’s buttocks and sent her “crass” Facebook messages has kept his job.
Detective Sergeant Paul Elrick was accused of sexualised behaviour towards a lower-ranking officer including tickling her and calling her “sexy”.
Mr Elrick, who has been a police officer for 24 years, said his actions were meant in good humour towards a woman he had a longstanding friendship with.
He admitted misconduct but faced possibly being sacked from Sussex Police after a disciplinary panel on Tuesday found his actions amounted to gross misconduct.
However the panel decided to issue the Hastings-based officer with a final written warning instead – though they declined to say why.
The hearing was told how Mr Elrick sent Facebook messages to the woman, referred to as Pc X, around 1.16am on March 30 this year.
They contained comments which he accepted were “crass and immature school ground wording”.
Several weeks later on June 16 the panel heard Mr Elrick told Pc X she looked and smelled “gorgeous” and later “pinged a ruler across her buttocks”.
Robert Talalay, who brought the allegations against Mr Elrick on behalf of the police force, said: “Later on the same day it is accepted that you squeezed Pc X’s shoulders and tickled her”.
Mr Talalay accepted that Mr Elrick and Pc X had a good working relationship and friendship at the time.
But he added: “Taken as a whole, in my submission, one cannot go away from the fact that these were matters that are sexual objectively in nature and would not have been done to a man.
“Whatever Pc X may have desired for her friend at the time, his actions made her very uncomfortable and were predicated on sex and were sexualised.”
Giving evidence, Mr Elrick told the panel that he considered Pc X a “longstanding friend” and they had always got on very well.
He accepted the comments were “crass and immature school ground wording” but added: “However the messages were said in the sense of humour to Pc X in the belief that they would be received in the sense of humour that Pc X knows me well.
“I had absolutely no idea the impact it had on Pc X until the matter came to my attention.
“I have accepted responsibility for upsetting her and I am genuinely very remorseful,” he added.
Discussing the “pinging” incident, Mr Elrick said he did not recall if it was a ruler or an elastic band.
“It is an occasion that again I deeply regret and I am personally very disappointed,” he added.
He denied any sexual undercurrent to the behaviour and added: “I can reassure you that I have never never treated any other members of staff in this matter nor will I ever do so.”
Mr Elrick’s defence solicitor Adam James told the panel that his client should be commended for his “full admission”.
The panel declined to provide the full reasons for their gross misconduct findings and subsequent decision to only issue a final written warning.
Instead the public hearing, hosted at Sussex Police HQ in Lewes, was told that these reasons would be provided in writing on a yet to be determined date in the future.