Custody Sergeant Geraint Jones is on trial after he sent a meme featuring George Floyd – the African-American man who died during an arrest in Minneapolis, US on 25 May – photoshopped with an image of African-American man Wardy Joubert III posing naked.
Joubert III was an American preacher and football coach who became an internet meme in 2012 after he was pictured sitting on a bed naked. He also starred in adult videos as a side profession.
The issue of whether the image had a racial angle “never even entered” his mind, Jones said.
Jones admitted sending the image to a group chat on WhatsApp on May 30 last year. According to court records, the officer forwarded the meme to a group of eight others after a friend sent it to him. The group included six serving police officers.
The matter was referred to Devon and Cornwall Police's professional standards department after one of the group chat’s members complained about the image.
Following a probe by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, Jones, 47, was charged with sending a grossly offensive image. He denied the charge and stood trial at Plymouth Magistrates' Court on Friday.
“I knew that meme was going viral at the time and they had seen it in various shapes and forms,” the officer told the court, saying that he “saw the comedy of it."
“I didn't think about it deeply and I didn't look at the image in detail,” Jones said, admitting that he might have been “after a cheap laugh or trying to raise a smile.”
According to prosecutors, Jones sent the image less than a week after Floyd's death.
“The prosecution case is that such an image, sent at the time that it was, was liable to cause gross offence, namely to those in the black and ethnic minority community,” one of the prosectors said.
The defence provided 54 pages of character references for the client and described Jones as a "caring family man" and a "diligent" police officer.
Floyd died after being detained by US law enforcement officers in the state of Minnesota last year. His death sparked a wave of protests against police brutality and racial discrimination across the globe, including in the UK.