A three-person panel in West Midlands found Pc Kirk Van Niekerk guilty of gross misconduct for smoking cannabis in a marked police car while engaged in a missing person search.
Fellow police officer Nigel Weston, a dog handler, detected the scent of cannabis when he approached the car around 3 a.m. on the night in question. Weston reported the incident, and eight days later Van Niekerk was required to submit to a urine test.
Van Niekerk tested at three times the level that would indicate passive smoking. After the initial report, Van Niekerk denied that he had any history of marijuana use. At that point, he was suspended until an investigation could be mounted.
Later, the police officer admitted to prior use, but maintained that he had not smoked cannabis in the car during his shift.
Deputy Chief Constable Dave Thompson chaired the panel that made the decision to fire Van Niekerk. Thompson noted that the police officer expressed remorse for events. Fellow officers had previously described Van Niekerk as a “well respected member of the team.”
The panel’s announcement criticized Van Niekerk for sub-standard behavior ill fitting an officer of the law. The panel’s decision to dismiss Van Niekerk without notice was based on their conclusion that the officer had risked public safety with his conduct, and then lied about it to his supervisors and peers.
Van Niekerk maintains the right to appeal the panel’s decision.
The West Midland department experienced criticism of its own when it employed the company, Eventbrite, to announce ticket availability to Van Niekerk’s hearing. The message read, “We hope you enjoy West Midland Police Public Misconduct Hearing – PC Van Niekerk.”