By EARYEL BOWLEG
Tribune Staff Reporter
COMMISSIONER of Police Clayton Fernander says if he had not been “disrupted” by a forced leave and secondment in 2019, he would have been in his retirement by now.
Leaving the Royal Bahamas Police Force by way of retirement was something he was planning for.
He also revealed officers had been advised to stay away from him.
The Commissioner, then an Assistant Commissioner along with then-ACP Leamond Deleveaux, now Deputy Commissioner and ACP Kendal Strachan were forced to take vacation leave in 2019.
Although the former Minnis administration justified the vacation policy by citing fiscal measures, the officers believed the administration simply wanted to sideline them. When their vacation leave ended, they were sent on special assignments for a year.
The Commissioner is still searching for the reason behind the reassignment.
He made his latest comments as a guest on Jerome Sawyer’s television show “On the Record”.
“I’m still trying to find out today what really happened but if you were paying attention and you listened to what the retired Commissioner Paul Rolle had highlighted, it pretty much just speaks for itself. I (am) not aware of why abruptly that happened the way it did and the reason,” he said.
The host noted that despite the men being high ranking officers, nobody could give a reason behind the decision.
“……It couldn’t be (that they were) unhappy because they bragged about the success, that we did come together as a team and we made it happen after two decades. As I said and (it) only could be the good Lord working because at the same time if we were not disrupted, I would’ve been on pension as we speak and I was preparing myself for retirement.”
Mr Fernander mentioned he had no issues with former National Security Minister Marvin Dames.
“No I had none. Before the former minister, sometimes in some situations speak directly to the Commissioner, he will call me and speak to me. So, I had no issue with the former minister. As I always say he knew my family well and I knew his family well.
“We had a good working relationship from growing up in the Criminal Investigation Department when he was the commander and I supported him in a big way. Never had the opportunity to sit down with him to explain the reason for us….”
Mr Fernander also revealed he never sat down and spoke with the then Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis at the time.
The Commissioner also claimed some of his colleagues stopped communicating with him due to an “instruction”.
“When I moved about, some people stopped calling. Some of my own colleagues stopped even communicating and some of them said they got instructions.
“…Say they don’t want to see them ‘(or) want you around Fernander….have a family business and want to see you around, no officers around there’.
“It came from the top because officers came and told me that certain people told them they don’t want them around Fernander.”
Asked if the directive was from the top of the government or the police force, he answered: “Top of the police force. It was clear and it was sad to see that and some of those officers who did it have since left the organisation.
Mr Fernander and Mr Deleveaux filed a lawsuit against the government in 2019 after they were asked to take their accumulated vacation leave that year.
But the Commissioner felt “somebody should speak up”.
“We did and you can see the end result of it. No contest after viewing the AG office and everybody backed out. Everybody just backed and said no contest and I don’t think it should just be left like that. Somebody should speak up.”
The officers returned to the force shortly after the September 16 general election. At the time then Commissioner Paul Rolle said he was “extremely pleased” to have the assistant commissioners rejoin the RBPF’s senior executive leadership team.
Mr Fernander recounted a call he received that he was needed.
“The commissioner called me one morning and he indicated to me that he needed me back. He said there was no experience on the top floor. Crime was out of hand and he had spoken to the prime minister for myself along with the two other officers Ken Strachan and Deleveaux to come back,” the commissioner recalled.
According to Mr Fernander, there was no conversation about him being commissioner at that time.
In the weeks before his retirement and while on the RBPF’s show “Cop Talk Live”, Mr Rolle said it was imperative not to allow political polarisation to interfere in the organisation.
“Take politics out of it,” he said. “Avoid this polarisation. And I say to Fernander, watch out for polarisation.”
Mr Fernander made it clear he would not have a repeat of the same ordeal that happened to him.
“It did affect the force in a big way because even then I still had a good core of officers who would’ve checked on me and had their concerns about what had happened.
“I always even up to now, I use my situation as a testimony to them that it could happen but I say to them that I will not sit while in this position to see something like that ever happen again. I would rather step down to see something like that.”