This will have let them down and I am genuinely very sorry for that.

The apology to the public comes from one of the most senior officers in Dorset Police after misconduct proceedings against five officers came to an end this week.

An inspector, police constable and former officer were found guilty of gross misconduct, while two further constables admitted misconduct.

The proceedings came to light following an investigation by the force’s professional standards department about alleged incidents of bullying and discriminatory conduct by the officers, who were serving at the time with the Force Support Group (FSG) in Bournemouth.

The misconduct panel ruled that the contents of a WhatsApp group contained sexual, pornographic, misogynistic, homophobic, racist, bullying, abusive, offensive and inappropriate messages.

Temporary Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Farrell told the Daily Echo it had been a “difficult case” for Dorset Police.

“I am appalled by what has happened and the behaviours that have been spoken about throughout the hearings,” T/DCC Farrell said.

“I know this will have shocked and upset our community. We know in order for the community to be confident in policing they need to be able to trust us and think that we act fairly and without discrimination.

“This will have let them down and I am sorry for that, I am genuinely very sorry for that.”

T/DCC Farrell said she was also disappointed for the “vast, vast majority” of Dorset Police employees, who would have been “shocked”, “appalled” and “feel let down” by the behaviour.

Asked about the nature of the content that came to light during the misconduct proceedings, the force’s lead for professional standards said: “It is absolutely shocking and I will not shy away from that. Unfortunately, in policing more generally, nationally, we have seen some of these behaviours.

“To think it has happened in our force as well, clearly we are hugely disappointed about that, but we are absolutely resolutely determined to make sure we do everything we can to stamp this out and to make sure it does not happen again.”

T/DCC Farrell said the force had a scheme called Call It Out, in which officers, staff and volunteers could anonymously report any behaviour which they believe fell below the high standards expected in policing.

The counter corruption unit was committed to carrying out thorough and robust investigations, she said.

There would be training and learning off the back of the case, while the force leader added that Dorset Police had strong standards of vetting along with an equalities, diversity and inclusion strategy.

T/DCC Farrell said it was expected that people in police forces report inappropriate behaviour but added that it took “a lot of courage” for those who reported their concerns to come forward.

Asked if the case would damage public confidence in Dorset Police, T/DCC Farrell said: “I won’t shy away from the fact that of course, this is really difficult for the public to hear and the community to hear what has gone on and it will damage their confidence.

“I hope I can reassure the public. I am not naïve and I am not shying away from what has happened, but I do think this is a small minority of our people.

“We have acted swiftly. Our own people have spoken up and we have taken robust action.”

Inspector Nicholas Mantle, PC Mark Jordan-Gill and former officer Paul Perdrisat were found guilty of gross misconduct.

Inspector Mantle, a sergeant at the time of the allegations who had supervisory responsibility for colleagues in the team, was found to have posted two offensive images on the WhatsApp group, he did not leave the group and he failed to treat members of the public and colleagues with respect and/or courtesy.

The panel also ruled that he breached the standards of professional behaviour concerning equality and diversity by posting one message and failing to challenge derogatory and offensive behaviour of others he supervised. The inspector was dismissed without notice.

The misconduct panel found that PC Jordan-Gill posted inappropriate and offensive messages on the WhatsApp group and did not leave the group even though he was more than likely aware of inappropriate images and messages being posted. PC Jordan-Gill was dismissed without notice.

It was found that Mr Perdrisat was a ‘major contributor’ of the offensive messages and images that were posted in the group. Mr Perdrisat was told he would have been dismissed had he not already resigned.

Inspector Mantle, PC Jordan-Gill and Mr Perdrisat were all placed on the barred list administered by the College of Policing, which means they must not be employed or appointed into policing.

PC Michael Lowther and PC Matthew Young admitted misconduct. PC Lowther, who challenged the behaviour on the WhatsApp group and left the group, was handed a written warning and PC Young, who failed to challenge the other officers but had extremely limited participation in the group, was issued with a final written warning.