Double standards at play in BMI sacking
I am writing this letter with deep sadness and shock as to the level of leadership being exhibited in the Bermuda Police Service. The Commissioner of Police today (March 5, 2020) dismissed my son from the service on the grounds that he did not meet a Body Mass Index standard; so, basically, he was body-shamed and told that he is too fat to be a police officer.
Ironically, neither the commissioner nor deputy commissioner can meet that same BMI standard, so it’s one rule for us and another for other members of the BPS.
However, there is protection under the law for this kind of behaviour and we will fight this unjust, illegal and unlawful behaviour to the full extent of the law.
In 2019, my son applied to join the BPS. He was required to undertake a medical examination as part of the recruitment process.
The government medical officer who conducted the examination determined that his BMI exceeded the limits set by the senior command of the BPS.
My son undertook to go on a weight-reduction programme and sought assistance from a registered dietitian. At some stage, a decision was made to allow him to enter the service, and a condition was placed on that entry that he had to meet the BMI standard before completing the recruit foundation course.
Before signing this illegal requirement, he was not allowed to seek legal advice; had he sought legal advice, he would have known that the Commissioner of Police does not have a legal authority to test him for BMI once he was accepted into the BPS.
All police officers are governed under the Police Act 1974 and amendments, as well as the Conditions of Service Order 2002. The Act and regulations do not give the commissioner any authority to order or insist a police officer undertake any medical exam.
Any concerns about a police officer’s medical condition must be referred to a medical board, as per the Conditions of Service Order.
A person’s weight is not a performance factor, as is being argued. Weight and, in context, BMI is a medical issue and can be addressed in only one way.
Surprisingly, the senior command of the BPS thinks that someone’s BMI is a performance issue.
The reality is that there are many police officers who would not meet this BMI standard that is being imposed on my son. Historically, the command of the service has not required officers to provide it with any BMI information, and this is because the only medical requirement is to prove fitness for duty. In my son’s case, he has missed only two work days, and these were because of a common cold when he was sent home by training staff.
My son has met and exceeded all academic standards; he has also met and exceeded all skill assessments. His scores in the final knowledge exams were 88/91 and he completed his final skill assessments as well. He has also exceeded all of the standards for the Job Related Fitness Test. In addition, he participated and successfully completed a driving course.
I am appalled at the behaviour being exhibited by the Commissioner of Police. At a time when the service should be excited about getting young male Bermudians to join the service, they are instead ostracising them.
In the near future, there will be a number of searching questions the senior command of the BPS will have to answer:
1, How many police officers they have required to be tested or provide BMI information?
2. The national origin or nationality of those tested?
3, How did they arrive at a particular BMI standard?
The kind of behaviour and decision-making in this case shows a clear lack of understanding of the conditions under which police officers work, and may be indicative of the heavy-handed approach by senior command in the past two years, which has led to a number of civil actions being undertaken.
Add this case to the list.
As a former member of the BPS, and having served as a member of the Bermuda Police Association for many years, there is irony in that I now have to assist my son in undertaking a fight to ensure his basic human rights are not trampled and run roughshod over.
MIKE JACKMAN OTM
Retired Deputy Commissioner
Christ Church, Barbados
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