Ex cop muses on the policeman accused of asking his colleagues for sex

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The attorney general, Steadroy “Cutie Benjamin has given a senior policeman five days to respond to complaints of sexual harassment made by three of his male subordinates who have asked the Police Service Commission (PSC) to intervene.
The deadline was given in a letter to the officer on March 29. Benjamin has meanwhile refuted reports by other media entities last week, that the officer was suspended. He said no action has been taken and the case will be handled according to protocol.
When OBSERVER media checked, up to yesterday, the officer was on the job, executing his duties.
I discussed the case with former Commissioner of Police, Rawlson Pompey, to shed light on what exactly the complaint is; proving the allegations; potential disrepute to the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda (RPFAB); the roles of the Police Service Commission, the attorney general and prime minister; and the way forward.
Rawlston Pompey is a former top cop who served the RPFAB for more than 20 years. He has been crime chief and a prosecutor and has studied both home and abroad to improve his policing skills.
Q: The officer in question has not been charged with any offence, and the public is questioning whether this is a cover up. Why is it a criminal charge has not been laid?
A: This matter was not criminally reported to the police and you would note the victims or the accusers have reported the matter directly to the Police Service Commission that has constitutional responsibility for disciplinary control of the police service from the ranks of Sergeant to Commissioner of Police.
Q: Explain the Commission’s role in matters such as this.
A: If, for instance, a member between the ranks Sergeant or Deputy Commissioner of Police is accused of infringing the disciplinary regulations or committing breaches of those regulations, the Commissioner of Police, having received the complaints, reports or an allegation, will cause that matter to be investigated. In other words, he will delegate an investigator to do so and it will be within the sole discretion of the investigator to determine whether or not that member should be charged with a disciplinary offence.
Q: I noticed you said between the ranks of Sergeant and Deputy Commissioner of Police, what then is the process for a Commissioner of Police?
A: If the matter were to involve the Commissioner of Police himself, no report can be made to him because he would have been at the centre of the allegation, and therefore, the report would have been made to the Police Service Commission, and when they would have received that report, and they would have been satisfied that the commissioner committed a disciplinary offence, then they would have the power to suspend that commissioner and then investigate the allegation.
Q: How would the Commission proceed with an investigation in a matter?
A: The Police Service Commission in itself is not an investigative body. Matters that are referred to it are usually matters for trial and so the commission is empowered to engage the services of an independent investigator who would then submit the findings to them. And when this is done, the commission would then make a determination as to whether the officer should be charged, and if so, with what disciplinary offence.
Q: Could the complaining officers have filed this complaint as a criminal matter – the complaint being that the senior policeman asked them for sex, offered to pay as well as made other sorts of sexual advances and comments to them?
A: It depends on if that is all that occurred. But, if the investigator hired by the Police Service Commission finds that the matter borders criminality – and there’s a thin line between that which is considered a disciplinary offence and that which is considered a crime – then the Police Service Commission would have a duty to refer the findings to the Director of Public Prosecutions. For sexual harassment, we do not have any laws on our books that make that an offence, but it is inappropriate and there is where it will bring it back to the disciplinary side of the coin. If such advances were to be reported to the Commissioner of Police or the Police Service Commission, each would have to make a determination what is the best possible course of action to be taken against that officer. One of the more serious charges you can find under the disciplinary charges is one that is likely to bring disrepute/discredit to the reputation of the police service.
Q: You stated that the complaints are not criminal and further that sexual harassment is not an offence on our law books, why then is it that the publication of the senior cop’s name an issue?
A: If there was actual physical contact, like trying to kiss someone whether man or woman, or fondle them or touch the buttocks, that, in itself, would be an act of serious indecency or indecent assault under the Sexual Offences Act and you cannot publish anything regarding the identity in cases under that Act. But the sexual harassment, we do not have that under our law and so barring the publication of the name would not be one of the stipulations like you’ll find with this complaint. This is not one of those cases where you can be cited for breaches under that Act. But, it is important to note that since there has not yet been an investigation, we do not know if the independent investigator would find anything that the Police Service Commission may wish to engage the attention of the Director of Public Prosecutions so it is safer not to identify anyone at this time.
Q: These complaints were circulating for several weeks before the PSC decided to report them to the attorney general, Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin. Our newsroom was advised that several of the members of the commission were aware of the matter but did not act, what would it take for the commission to act or investigate?
A: The PSC must have something before it as a body, it cannot go on rumour, hearsay, speculation or even if these individuals had informally mentioned the matter. As a constitutional body, it must have something before it. In terms of taking the initial action, which is a suspension, Section 16 of the Police Act Chapter 330, says where a report, allegation or complaint is received, from which it appears that a member of the police force has committed a disciplinary or criminal offence, the commission may suspend that member from membership of the police force or from his office whether or not the matter has been investigated. And, in such case, he shall be suspended until A – the commission decides otherwise; B – it is decided that the member shall not be charged with a disciplinary offence or; C –  the member has been so charged and either all the charges have been dismissed or punishment has been imposed. For B, if after the investigation the Commission sees an offence that it has no power over, such as a criminal offence, the body will direct the attention of the Director of Public Prosecution to what they saw as a possible crime.  In this case, there has not been any suspension so far by the way.
Q: What is the power of the prime minister and attorney general in a case such as this where a gazetted officer is caught up in this type of complaint?
A: They have absolutely no power. They have to stay very clear, very far away from a matter like this. They have nothing to do with the discipline of the police organisation, they have nothing to do with investigations, whether disciplinary or criminal.
Q: Was it proper then for the attorney general to write to the individual on March 29 asking him to explain and respond within five days to the allegations of his three colleagues?
A: He has no authority to ask anyone to write and respond to any complaints. I want to believe the attorney general may have misdirected himself when he did that but I am sure it is a matter that can be corrected and the proper advice given by those who should deal with it.
Q: Does the letter requesting the accused officer to offer an explanation or to respond to the allegations hamper the work of the Commission or prejudice the matter in any way now?
A: What I know from tactical knowledge and experience with these things, if there is an allegation, the person who is alleged to have committed some wrongdoing, can be invited to the body, the PSC, and given an opportunity to be heard. I don’t think that with his knowledge, his experience and background and when he would have taken advice from other lawyers, I don’t think it would reach the stage where he would be writing anything to explain.
If the Police Service Commission is going to conduct an investigation it should not be asking him for any explanation, but, granted that the author of that letter is not the police service commission, there is no issue.
Q: What if this matter had involved a senior male officer making sexual advances to female officers, do you think there would have been such an uproar from society and are we looking at the matter this way because the sexual advances have to do with same sex relations?
A: You know, in any organisation, particularly in disciplined organisations, there shall be no fraternisation, you cannot fraternise with your subordinates. I am not saying that what is alleged amounts to it, you know the prevailing constitutional principle of innocence until proven guilty. We haven’t reached that stage yet and I would not want to cross that bridge until I meet it.
Q: Is there a limit on the time when these complaints should have been made and action taken, bearing in mind most of the complaints were made more than six months after the alleged advances were made?
A: No, there is no limit on these sorts of things.
Q: Lastly, what’s the likelihood of the senior accused officer being found guilty of a disciplinary offence given that the allegations made so far are that he made oral advances – so without physical or other evidence such as recorded calls, written advances or saved messages on a phone or computer, where can this matter go?
A: He who asserts must prove. These are matters that would have been discussed privately and these sometimes don’t go any ­place. Sometimes people have a hidden agenda. It is a matter of whether you accept what the victim is saying is the truth or if what the accused person is saying is the truth. And in cases where there is a reasonable doubt, it must be resolved in the favour of the accused person.

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