Education Director wants strip-search officers suspended

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The Director of Education, Clare Browne is calling for the suspension of the police officers who were involved in the strip search of 14 teachers at the All Saints Secondary School earlier this month over claims of money theft.
Browne said he has completed his investigation into the incident that left the educators feeling “violated and humiliated”. He further stated that communication has been dispatched to Acting Commissioner of Police Atlee Rodney.
“The Ministry of Education is requesting the immediate investigation into this incident and that while the investigation is in train that the officers involved will be interdicted. The Ministry expects appropriate disciplinary measures will apply where they were breached. Justice must not only be done but also to be seen to be done,” Browne said.
 The education director was reading from the communication he dispatched to Rodney following the October 11 strip-search.
Browne explained that he only learned of the strip search after reading The Daily OBSERVER on October 18 which revealed that the female music teacher told police that the $4,500 she secured in her handbag in the staffroom, was gone when she returned.
He added that he immediately contacted Rodney who said he was unaware that several police officers, including an inspector, reportedly stripped the educators – both males and females – who were still on the compound after hours when lawmen responded to the report.
Following that initial telephone conversation, Browne said he and the education officer responsible for secondary schools visited the school to conduct their preliminary investigation on October 20.
That report has since been handed over to Michael Browne, the minister of education.
Minister Browne told our newsroom that he is now in receipt of the Education Ministry’s report on the matter, which he intends to take before the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda today.
“It is horrifying to think that so many persons can be searched based on an accusation. I feel for the teacher who lost the funds, but, at the same time I feel dually for the persons who were searched and I think it calls for a greater examination of police powers. It is not an attack on the police … such an invasive search merely by layin­­g an accusation,” Browne said.
He noted that the Constitution said people have a right to feel safe and secure, adding that it may be time to look at the powers of police.
“It is alarming, it is frightening and my heart goes out to the teacher because at that time of the day it is the most dedicated set of teachers that were there, it was after school. I was very horrified and the first thing I thought was, what if it was my mother, aunt or sister.  Something like that cannot be easily explained,” he added.
A teacher who was amongst the group of educators who were strip-searched said they are outraged by the claim their colleague made specifically because according to them, although she reported it was stolen at school, she still went home to check for the money.
It was only after the woman returned to work she reported the matter to the police and lawmen responded.
The teacher who claimed she and her colleagues were instructed to remove every article of clothing and to squat and cough to recover the allegedly stolen money said that the educators who were searched were not aware that they could refuse the search by the police officers who were not armed with search warrants.
The missing money was not recovered from any of the educators who had been subjected to the search.
Meanwhile, the acting police commissioner told OBSERVER yesterday that the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda is conducting its own probe and he is expected to meet with the director of education.

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