‘Pulling’ tickets is part of a culture of abuse - lawyer
There is said to be “a culture” of police officers abusing their powers by deleting their own parking tickets.
Lawyer Marc Daniels has highlighted how several unnamed police officers take advantage of the “very lax system” for their own benefit.
He has spoken of a “level of exploitation” as officers allegedly use their own discretion when it comes to cancelling tickets from the computer system.
Mr Daniels spoke out as he gave a defence speech in mitigation during yesterday's Magistrates'Court sentencing of police data input clerk Jahmeeka Wilson.
The 27-year-old mom from Pembroke was fined $8,100 after admitting to abusing her position to cancel 79 parking tickets. But Mr Daniels told the court her actions were part of “the culture in which she came into” at the Bermuda Police Service.
He said: “Certain police officers have certain discretions in dealing with parking tickets.
“Although in the letter of the law she (Wilson) is wrong and she shouldn't have pulled tickets, the culture is there … She had the authority from direct colleagues.
“There's a very lax system and the reality is there is a certain level of exploitation.”
Mr Daniels said throughout her two-year employment with BPS, Wilson had taken instructions from police officers to cancel tickets.
Mr Daniels said: “My client was of the view that police officers have the discretion to pull parking tickets as she was exposed to that.
“When you go to work and sit at a desk and the manager comes over, you respect rank and follow what you are told to do.”
Mr Daniels told the court that this had led to Wilson having “an extreme feeling of injustice” as others within her department “were doing the same thing.” The lawyer said his client had “been a scapegoat.”
As Wilson stood up to apologise to the court, she insisted that her colleagues should also speak up.
She said: “I honestly feel I haven't done anything wrong. I'm not guilty for what other people do, other people should come forward and be honest.”
Mr Daniels suggested her colleagues had influenced her, as she was “a young lady with limited experience in a working environment.” He said she had got involved in a “situation that is bigger than her.”
But Mr Daniels said if Wilson had known that her actions “would come back to haunt her” she would have told police officers she would not void tickets.
He said: “She is of previous good character, but was guided by others and made misinformed and miscalculated judgments.”
Mr Daniels used the example of if a police officer's private car was given a parking ticket when s/he was attending court on a day off. Mr Daniels also talked of Wilson being told to cancel a parking ticket for “an individual member of public.” He told the court that the police officer had said: 'No worries, I'll take care of it' and instructed Wilson to cancel the ticket.
Mr Daniels said she knew “no more than three to five people” of the 79 who had parking tickets pulled. He said the names on the list had included Department of Corrections and Bermuda Police Service.
Mr Daniels insisted it was never Wilson's intention to defraud the Government by saying 'I will pull that ticket for my friend' or 'oh yes, I'm going to prevent Government receiving its $50 fee'.
Even though the end result was the same, Mr Daniels said she was “acting under the direction of her direct supervisors.”
He said: “She did not pull parking tickets ad hoc, her actions would have followed instructions from an officer she had spoken to.
“The reason she knew how to pull parking tickets is that she'd been shown how to pull parking tickets.
“Inputting tickets or pulling a ticket at the discretion of a police officer was her job every day.”
A police constable, Kevin Cabral, 51, was charged with perverting the course of justice. During evidence against Wilson, text messages between her and Pc Cabral from September 2010 were read out.
Throughout yesterday's court case, Mr Daniels refused to name names even though Acting Magistrate Graveney Bannister said he could “offer some assistance.”
Mr Daniels repeatedly said his client wasn't “a tell-tale” but he said others had seen what had happened to Wilson and “the effect was already being felt in the department.”
He said through her job she was in “constant contact with police officers” and “reported daily to police officers.”
Mr Daniels said: “I'm not seeking to point the finger, I'm not seeking to divert blame for the actions Miss Wilson has taken.
“But I want to bring into context the environment she was working in and to explain how and why things were done.
“She's a young woman who was exposed to certain things and that's how she came to make certain decisions.”
Mr Daniels compared pulling parking tickets to the “unwritten rule” in Bermuda that even though the speed limit is 35km per hour, motorists don't appear in court unless they have exceeded 50km per hour. He said although these motorists had broken the law, there were “certain policy directions.”
But Mr Bannister said suggesting Wilson was part of a smear campaign was “only done to drum up sympathy.”
Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva said: “Now that the criminal case has drawn to a close, an associated internal discipline investigation can be completed.
“Accordingly, it is not appropriate to say much more at this point, other than this conviction should serve as an example of the fate that awaits dishonest staff in the police service. In this case the mechanisms we are putting in place to detect corruption worked exactly as they are intended to.”