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Sacked – 'For Having A Beard'

By NICO SCAVELLA

Tribune Staff Reporter

nscavella@tribunemedia.net

A FORMER police officer is seeking to appeal the commissioner of police’s recent decision to discharge him from the Royal Bahamas Police Force allegedly because of his unwillingness to compromise a key component of his Muslim faith.

Maria Daxon, attorney for former Constable Bertram Bain, told The Tribune she has been instructed to file an injunction in the Supreme Court to stay the August 2 decision, which she alleged hinged on Mr Bain’s unwillingness to shave his beard in accordance with the RBPF’s grooming policies.

Ms Daxon also claimed Mr Bain’s constitutional right to freely practice and/or change his religious beliefs have been breached as a result of his dismissal adding “the police force should conform to the Constitution, not the Constitution conforming to the police force”.

She further questioned the circumstances surrounding and leading up to Mr Bain’s termination, and also raised concerns that Commissioner Ellison Greenslade might have bypassed the protocol for dismissals outlined in both the Police Service Commission Regulation and the Police Act (2009) before terminating her client.

A copy of Mr Bain’s discharge certificate obtained by The Tribune shows that on August 2, 2017, the officer of 17 years was discharged from the RBPF “in accordance with Section 7 (c) of the Police Disciplinary Regulations No 1965 and Section 21 (1)(c) of the Police Force Act 2009.”

The discharge certificate noted that during his tenure with the RBPF, Mr Bain’s “conduct and general character has been unsatisfactory.” Mr Bain first joined the RBPF in 2000, and converted to Islam sometime in 2011.

However, Mr Bain, according to court documents obtained by The Tribune, claimed that his dismissal was the end result of his multiple attempts at having Commissioner Greenslade acquiesce to his pleas to adhere to the Muslim practice of not shaving one’s beard while serving as a member of the RBPF.

According to an affidavit filed July 6, 2016, which lists Commissioner Greenslade as one of seven defendants, Mr Bain met with Commissioner Greenslade and/or other senior officials no less than three times on the matter, dating as far back as early 2015. And each time the relevant parties met, Mr Bain informed all present of his Muslim faith, according to the affidavit.

In one such instance, on June 10, 2016, and in the presence of current and/or former members of the RBPF’s senior executive leadership team and other RBPF officials, Mr Bain “humbly requested the commissioner of police to assist with come accommodation Muslim practices to wear a beard.” In the affidavit, Mr Bain said he did so “with humility and out of respect to consider awareness of my constitutional rights, and status as a police officer and as a Muslim.”

This represented an immediate conflict, Mr Bain acknowledged in his interview with The Tribune on Friday, given the grooming policies of the RBPF and the reported Muslim practice of not shaving one’s beards in reverence of Islam and its founding prophet, Muhammad.

Rules

A series of inquiries on the RBPF’s grooming policy led to this newspaper being instructed by a senior police officer to refer to the grooming standards for RBPF cadets, which are published on the RBPF’s official website. The officer said those stipulations also apply to all police officers.

According to those rules, male cadets are required to maintain a “neat and clean” appearance both in and out of uniform, regardless of location. Their hair must be of crew cut length (short) and must not touch the shirt collar at the back of the neck.

Cadets may sport hair that is of sufficient thickness to “reflect current hair styling, but shall not protrude over the ears,” according to the website. “Trendy hairstyles” are prohibited. Cadets must be clean-shaven, and no sideburns or beards are allowed.

According to the affidavit, Mr Bain reported to the maintenance section of police headquarters from early 2015 to mid-2016, an area he suggested to The Tribune on Friday was more accommodating of his Muslim faith due to the ‘back of the house’ nature of the job and it not requiring him to be in standard police uniform.

However, on June 21, 2016, Mr Bain said he was instructed by Commissioner Greenslade to report to police headquarters, where he was informed by the police chief that he would be transferred from the maintenance section to the Elizabeth Estates Police Station, and thus required to be in uniform.

According to the affidavit, from that date up to June 23, 2016, Mr Bain was informed by three separate senior police officers that he had “defaulted” for either not complying with a “lawful order” to shave his beard, or not shaving while in uniform.

Two tribunals later, both of which he said he was found guilty for his refusal to shave his beard, Mr Bain said he was officially discharged from the RBPF.

“I know without a doubt what happened to me was a travesty, was unlawful, however the greatest travesty was not what happened to me, but it’s what is being happening to the Constitution of the commonwealth of the Bahamas,” he said. “When I know, and each and every Bahamian knows, that the sweat blood and tears that were shed by our forefathers to more or less seek this freedom for us, and leave it for us to maintain, and for us to allow any one person or one sect of people to destroy it, I think that’s the greatest travesty of all.”

Attempts to contact Commissioner Greenslade yesterday for comment were unsuccessful.

Nonetheless, in a letter addressed to Commissioner Greenslade dated August 3, 2017 and obtained by The Tribune, Ms Daxon bemoaned the “unconstitutional” decision to terminate her client.

In that letter, she said Mr Bain’s termination came the same day her law firm, Dulwich Law Chambers, filed a notice of referral to case management, and that her client’s termination also occurred despite an originating summons filed in 2016 for related decisions made in June and July of that year.

“This gentleman is a good police officer,” she told The Tribune on Friday. “Always was a good police (officer). I used to work in (Central Detective Unit), he used to work in (Drug Enforcement Unit). Never had an issue. Other (officers-in-charge) were willing to work with him.

“He was allowed to do his prayer, they used to give him his lunchtime to go and do his prayer. But the commissioner of police, Mr Greenslade seems to have a problem with what’s been going on,” she claimed.

“Now we have to go back to the courts, ask the courts to put an injunction on the commissioner. This man has a family. He is the breadwinner, his wife is not working. Because this man decided to change his religion, that is a problem? It is unfair. There are many areas in the police force he could work in and maintain his religion.”

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 1 year, 1 month ago

This guy knew (or should have known before joining the police) that he would not be permitted to keep his beard. The courts should not give his case the time of day......the police have every right to be governed by rules that they themselves consider appropriate to their public mission. This is not a matter of discrimination based on religious faith. The rule on beards is pretty much like the rule that a police officer must not have a serious chronic illness or physically debilitating impediment. Let's please not invite the guy who wants to be an active duty police officer, but unfortunately is confined to a wheel chair, to go to court on the basis that he too feels discriminated against by the rules of the police force. Pandora's box need not be opened to all of the foolishness that would pop out of it if matters like this are given the time of day by the courts! There are too many lawyers too hard up for money these days and because of it they do their clients a great disservice. The courts certainly should not encourage frivolous cases of any kind, and this is definitely one of them.

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DillyTree 1 year, 1 month ago

Despite converting to Islam some 10 years after joining the force, Constable Bain certainly would have been well-versed in the grooming regulations. Using religion as an excuse to be allowed exception to those rules should not be allowed. He is a public servant and as such, needs to follow the rules of the public service. And particularly in military or quasi-military organizations, uniformity is essential to morale and good discipline. Don't like it -- find another job.

It sounds as if accommodations had been made for him to be able to practice his religion, such as time for daily prayers and the like, so he cannot say he was discriminated against for his religion.

What will happen if Rasta police officers insist they be allowed to smoke weed as it's part of their religion? Or if officers refuse to work on Saturdays or Sundays because of their religious faith? Let's not open a Pandora's Box, as the previous poster suggests.

This country has enough serious issues to deal with without clogging the courts with to beard or not to beard nonsense.

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TalRussell 1 year, 1 month ago

Comrades! The more I let this story about former former Constable Bertram Bain's beard sink in my head - the more it comfortably grows on me. Why shouldn't we not want our policeman's to mirror the community that they police?
Should our forces be so facial hair restrictive that someone wearing a beard couldn't join to police our neighbuorhoods and communities?
Why couldn't someone wear a beard and still look all policeman's professional? Haven't you seem some our looking all much too scrubby looking policeman's lately?
Muslim, or no Muslim faith - shouldn't even come into play on the beard or no beard policy.

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birdiestrachan 1 year, 1 month ago

Muslims have their rules and regulations and the police force has theirs. would the Muslims change their rules to suite the police. so why should the police force change theirs to fit the Muslims once they start where will it end.? If one wants to be a part of a organization one has to conform to the regulations..

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thephoenix562 1 year, 1 month ago

What does facial hair have to do with policing?All the crime going on in this Bahamas we worrying about facial hair.A similar matter involved a Defence force officer Gregory Laramore who was fired for not participating in Christan prayer service because he was a Muslim.The appeals court sided with him and said his rights were violated.One last thing before you demit office Mr Greenslade give Bertram Bain back his job.

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CatIslandBoy 1 year, 1 month ago

The real argument here is about religious discrimination. Why can't a Muslim be allowed to serve in the RBPF? Times are a changing, and police forces across the globe have had to amend their rules and regulations to accommodate these changing times. Even the British, who first gave us these antiquated rules and regulations, now allow beard-wearing Muslim officers. So does Canada.The Bahamas does not have to be last in line when it comes to moving into the 21st Century and updating its Regulations. How could a beard deter an officer from performing his duties? It also appears from this article that COP Greenslade's move was one of spitefulness. He re-assigned the officer from the mechanic shop to a regular station to either break him or fire him.

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TalRussell 1 year, 1 month ago

Comrade CatIslandBoy, are you suggesting a policy that would only allow Muslims to sport a beard but not even an atheist? Shouldn't we confine the beard or no beard policy to the basics - 'Whiskers?'

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CatIslandBoy 1 year, 1 month ago

No, Tal. I am suggesting that the Rules and Regulations prohibiting beards could be amended to provide various exemptions (such as religious, or medical) as long as they do not interfere with the professionalism of the organization.

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TalRussell 1 year, 1 month ago

Comrade CatIslandBoy, I say if the former policeman's is with wife, or 'partner', and if they're okay with his beard, why shouldn't that be enough of a whiskers test, for you, I - and the soon retiring Commish - to keep our noses out their business?

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TalRussell 1 year, 1 month ago

But Comrade CatIslandBoy, Personally, the lawyer should have based their legal challenge on why are they're restricting anyone with a beard from joining the force?
I don't see anything wrong with growing beards - because today the crime escalation in the country is so high that we can use all the good people the force can attract ..... And, I'm not buying what was no more than a 'cultural security' thing and not a religious custom - going back some 1400 years - should have a damn thing to do with who gets become a policeman's in 2017.

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DEDDIE 1 year, 1 month ago

My religion doesn't permit me to cut my beard, to carry a gun, wear a military uniform, bow to the queen, say the pledge of allegiance or sing the national anthem. Simple solution, get a job that don't have those requirements. The legal end to allowance is that I should be allow to grow my beard because you allow him to grow his.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 year, 1 month ago

The reality is there isn't a rule anywhere that someone somewhere will not take exception to for whatever reason. Yet the world of great tolerance that we live in today, thanks to the more activist liberal minded among us, has never been more divided, confrontational and hate filled on so many fronts. We can only wonder why.

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Reality_Check 1 year, 1 month ago

This fella will next be telling us he has a right to observe sharia law in our country rather than our own laws of the land. Besides, anyone will tell you a beard seriously handicaps you in hand to hand combat for obvious reasons and it also demands much hygiene up-keep time. These are the main reasons why personnel in ground force military units like the army, marines, navy seals, etc. have traditionally been required to have short hair (crew cuts). I just wish the more liberal minded among us would think a bit more before getting all worked up over such matters. A little common sense would go a long ways!

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CatIslandBoy 1 year, 1 month ago

@Reality_Check Are you suggesting that just because we disagree on a backwards Regulation, that most modern quasi-military, and some military, organizations are abandoning, your arguments are laced with common sense and mine is sadly lacking? If truth be told your nonsense about a beard being a handicap in hand-to-hand combat is lacking in common sense just behind your next comment about a beard "demands much hygiene up-keep time". What silly drivel!

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Reality_Check 1 year, 1 month ago

On your common sense point, just ask the Judo black belt holder or any other close combat martial arts expert how he or she is trained to take great advantage of an opponent who has a long beard. As for the sharia law point, your silence is noted.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 year, 1 month ago

Beards in the modern American military and most state/city police departments are for the most part a no-no, and the reason for this is two fold:

  • -to ensure a tight gas mask seal, and
  • -to promote a professional military/police force image of clean-shaven, well-groomed, respectable young men.

Thanks to lib activists some exceptions do exist, but for the most part are limited to non-active duty men having desk-type jobs, etc.

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TalRussell 1 year, 1 month ago

Comrades! Exploiting weaknesses can also apply to the Chess player who could or could not have a beard. It can also apply in business, politics and track and field competition - which allows for exploiting weaknesses.
Prime Minister Minnis along with several of his Crown Cabinet Ministers - does sport whiskers? Does this means the four PLP House of Assembly MP's - should be pulling on they whiskers?

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Reality_Check 1 year, 1 month ago

You need a good clean facial shave in addition to a complete re-wiring of the scarce grey matter between your ears.

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birdiestrachan 1 year, 1 month ago

will Rasta's be allowed to wear dreadlocks. ? Where will it all end ?

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realfreethinker 1 year, 1 month ago

what does your comment have to do with this article. This has nothing to do with religion

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baldbeardedbahamian 1 year, 1 month ago

If officer Bain is bald as well as bearded then I stand in solidarity with him.

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ayisha 1 year, 1 month ago

Leviticus 21:5 'They shall not make any baldness on their heads, nor shave off the edges of their beards, nor make any cuts in their flesh. Isaiah 15:2 They have gone up to the temple and to Dibon, even to the high places to weep Moab wails over Nebo and Medeba; Everyone's head is bald and every beard is cut off. Jeremiah 48:37 "For every head is bald and every beard cut short; there are gashes on all the hands and sackcloth on the loins. That there came certain from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, even fourscore men, having their beards shaven, and their clothes rent, and having cut themselves, with offerings and incense in their hand, to bring them to the house of the LORD.

2 Samuel 10:4

So Hanun took David's servants and shaved off half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle as far as their hips, and sent them away. 1 Chronicles 19:4

So Hanun took David's servants and shaved them and cut off their garments in the middle as far as their hips, and sent them away.

The beard is not only significant for a Muslim to have, but according to Almighty God all men should keep it, and to shave it is to be a shame .

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