NATIONAL Security Minister Wayne Munroe, QC.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
NATIONAL Security Minister Wayne Munroe said the outcome of Royal Bahamas Police Force Disciplinary Tribunal proceedings should not be kept secret from Bahamians unless a compelling rationale exists.
His comment yesterday came after Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle declined to tell The Tribune how the RBPF disciplined Courtney Hall, a constable who admitted to punching Pedro Morley in his mouth, damaging his teeth in a recent case that saw the Supreme Court award $82,856 in damages and costs.
The Disciplinary Tribunal, according to some reports, disciplined Constable Hall by docking him seven days pay. However, that is not listed in court documents or any public record.
Asked about the outcome of the tribunal hearing on Sunday, Commissioner Rolle said: “We don’t discuss our internal tribunal with the media. That’s why it’s called internal.”
However, Mr Munroe said he checked the police disciplinary regulations and could not find any provision that justifies secrecy.
Mr Munroe also said a video of a violent interaction between a police officer and a woman that went viral yesterday shows why transparency in disciplinary procedures is important.
In the five second clip video, a male police officer chokes a woman before demanding that someone bring him the phone of the person recording the encounter.
“(The police disciplinary regulations) have been around for a while, but there’s nothing that speaks to privacy, to secrecy of proceedings and arguably under the Freedom of Information Act, which is the most recent legislation, it would be discoverable anyway,” he said.
The FOIA, although passed, has not been fully enacted.
“My expectation would be that I couldn’t think of any reason other than if there were some national security reason for not providing the information under a Freedom of Information request at minimum and as a matter of policy generally. But that is a matter that I will discuss with the commissioner of police to try and understand what may be the reason for a policy of secrecy. I couldn’t think of a legitimate one other than if the information would have some national security interest issue.”
Regarding the video of a male officer choking a woman, Mr Munroe, careful not to prejudge the incident, said: “This is a part of why there is a need for there to be an open process even in the disciplinary hearing so that the public can have confidence in the process. Those persons involved in the incident have two options that aren’t exclusive, that can be used jointly. They ought at the very least to make a complaint to Complaints and Corruption at headquarters and go with the evidence and I am advised that the commissioner may have already advised that that be done. The deputy commissioner will be in charge of discipline and then if the persons feel sufficiently strongly about it they can also make a criminal complaint and my function as the minister would be to ensure that the system works.
“You don’t want to prejudge something. On the face of it, you see violence being used by a male against a female. What came before that, what came after that, I don’t know. There may be absolutely no explanation for it and if there is no explanation for it then the outcome should be clear. What I can’t prejudge is what came before or after it and that is why it’s important for the person to go and make a complaint. We can’t proceed without an actual complaint.”
Mr Munroe said one of his tasks as minister will be to reduce the government’s liability to damages as a result of alleged abuses by law enforcement officers.
“The prime minister in his remarks when I was sworn in remarked that my selection was due to the fact that I was a human rights lawyer and a formidable advocate in court,” he said. “To me that speaks to that part of what would be my mandate from the prime minister in my appointment. It is a notorious fact that there are quite a number of judgements in the court against the government for the actions of members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
“It would be a part of my task from the prime minister giving me this appointment to see what steps we would take to reduce that not only from the point of view of reducing liability of the state, but also indicating the rights of the citizen, because if you don’t offend the rights of the citizen then you can’t get a judgement against you, so it goes hand in hand.”