A former volunteer police officer Essex who behaved inappropriately towards female colleagues has been found to have committed gross misconduct.

Special sergeant James Herdman was also found to have sent inappropriate messages of a “sexualised” nature to three female special constables between January and March 2020.

A misconduct panel ruled Mr Herdman would have been dismissed from his position had he not resigned back in March.

Following a virtual hearing on Monday, the panel ruled Mr Herdman had committed gross misconduct and breached the standards of Authority, Respect and Courtesy, Equality and Diversity, and Discreditable Conduct.

Mr Herdman will also be included on the College of Policing Barred List, which prevents him from working in policing in the future.

Assistant Chief Con Andy Prophet said: “The behaviour of former S/Sgt James Herdman in this case was completely unacceptable and falls far below the high standards I expect from all officers, staff and volunteers at Essex Police.

“His actions not only undermine public confidence but breaks the incredibly strong level of trust that is so vital between fellow officers and police staff.

“At Essex Police, we’re committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment for everyone. We have a collective responsibility to ensure that all victims of sexual harassment or inappropriate behaviour feel supported and encouraged to come forward, as they have done in this case.

“No matter who is involved, where or when it happens, the outcome of this hearing shows that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated, and we will take all reports of this nature seriously.”

Mr Prophet added: “I urge anyone who experiences, or anyone who witnesses inappropriate behaviour towards women or towards any person, to please report it.”

Essex Police says it is “dedicated” to supporting all female members of staff, with representation at every rank up to Deputy Chief Constable and in all kinds of specialist roles from detectives to firearms officers.

Insp Laura Stellon, co-chair of the Women’s Leadership and Development Forum, said: “Our network celebrates women across all roles and ranks in Essex Police.

“We support both experienced colleagues and new joiners to the force and offer a safe space for people to ask for advice.

“We will always encourage colleagues to support each other and challenge inappropriate behaviour when they see it, no matter who is involved.”