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‘Police Force Tribunals Should Not Be Secret’

NATIONAL Security Minister Wayne Munroe, QC.

NATIONAL Security Minister Wayne Munroe, QC.

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Senior Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

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.”

Comments

realfreethinker 1 month, 1 week ago

Brave better remove Munroe from his cabinet. He is so conflicted by his past actions. I don't see anyway for him to continue in his role. This is just the beginning

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Cobalt 1 month, 1 week ago

Why hasn’t anyone express concern over this blatant and outrageous “conflict of interest” that is Wayne Munroe. I am astounded by the fact the Opposition/FNM has allowed this travesty to go unchecked. Wayne Munroe is by trade a criminal defense attorney. He has represented clients including murderers, rapist, drug dealers, and some of the most unsavory characters against charges levied by the Crown. To have him serving as head of national security is absurd to say the least! Under no circumstances should any individual be allowed to serve on both sides of the law. If this practice is allowed, then one office would undoubtably compromise the other! Can you imagine Wayne Munroe giving instructions to police officers who have investigated cases that he has represented??? That’s a flagrant violation of the justice system! How can a criminal defense attorney also be in charge of the police force??? What kind of country is this???

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tribanon 1 month, 1 week ago

The more transparency and public sunshine, the better. We all know cockroaches love nothing more than darkness. Secrecy or privacy should only come in to play when it's absolutely necessary by law to protect an individual's fundamental rights, including the basic right to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a court of law.

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TigerB 1 month, 1 week ago

I was a police for over 20 years, but this is an interesting side of it, I never saw it the way the minister is saying. From the beginning of time it was always that the results of cases stayed away from the public, only the officers knew what happened.. I remember and officer chopping up his wife, he only lost his job... no criminal proceedings. I think it was Greenslade who started putting officers in the public spotlight, sending them to court for opening hearing. Let's see where he will take it.

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mandela 1 month, 1 week ago

The public has a right to know what disciplinary action is taken against these rogue police officers. Mr. Commissioner of police the police force doesn't belong to you, but to the people and should be accountable to the people. In both incidents after attacking citizens for no reason other than that they can get away with, it is wrong and both officers should be fired.

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ThisIsOurs 1 month, 1 week ago

Wayne Munroe should be installed as the Police, Police for all eternity. He is exactly the oversight needed. You vant come to this man for exsmple about a prisoner with 2 black eyes broken ribs an anxiety attack and tell him you dont know what happen. I hope he doesnt get caught up in any ethical issues over the 5 year term.

Maybe he can find out what happened to Marvin. Its an absolute disgrace, he's never been seen again.

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