TWO police officers have been removed from firearms duties and given final written warnings after beating a deer to death.
The officers were dispatched to deal with a dear injured in a road accident.
The pair decided to kill the deer to ensure it did not suffer further – but beat the animal to death using a “large blunt tool” rather than shooting it.
The officers were found guilty of gross misconduct for bringing discredit upon the force by a disciplinary panel.
Ron Hogg, Police and Crime Commissioner for Durham, branded their actions “disgusting”.
He said: “I have been taking a close personal interest in this case, which has naturally caused people disgust and distress.
“The Constabulary have dealt with it in an extremely diligent and professional way, and left the two officers in no doubt that their behaviour was unacceptable and unbecoming of a police officer.
“Due to one act of stupidity, they have gone from having long, clean and commended records to being on their final warning – and stripped them of their firearms responsibilities.”
The incident happened in June, after reports an adult deer was reported as being injured by the side of the road after being possibly hit by traffic.
The officers, both of whom have extensive firearms experience, were sent to the scene. They remained with the deer for some time.
Eventually the deer managed to stand on weak legs and the officers decided, after advice from an animal welfare expert, they decided to carry the deer away from the road into nearby woodland where they hoped it would recover.
Two days later on June 11 another report came in of a deer lying in the road after apparently being hit by traffic.
The same two officers were sent to the scene and rightly assumed the deer was the same animal from two days previously, a hearing heard.
The pair decided to put the animal out of its misery, which the panel accepted was justified.
But rather than following the “accepted practice of dispatching the animal with a firearm,” they struck the deer several times with “a large blunt tool carried as standard equipment in larger road policing vehicles”.
The officers assured the panel that their actions were in the best interests of the animal and that neither gained any satisfaction from the circumstances.
The panel members, upon considering the evidence, were satisfied that the actions of the officers were not borne from cruelty although the was not followed.
A Force spokesman said: “Durham Constabulary regrets the actions of the officers. Our partnership with the public and its confidence in police actions is paramount to us.
“We expect our officers to adhere to the Code of Ethics, which defines our legitimacy, at all times.
“Balancing the allegations proven, the single nature of the incident and the health of the officers’ misconduct history the panel feel that an outcome of a final written warning for each officer was proportionate in the circumstances.
“The lessons from this incident will be considered in some depth and will be used to improve the Force response to such incidents in the future.”