Police disciplinary decisions to be reviewed because UK officer in charge of professional standards is not a BPS member
A review of decisions about officer conduct made by the Bermuda Police Service’s head of professional standards is under way after it was found she did not have the authority to make them because of a legal technicality.
Detective Superintendent Gillian Murray was seconded from Britain last October to head the service’s Professional Standards Department as part of a drive by the Commissioner of Police to improve conduct and root out corruption.
The move has led to 87 officers – more than 20 per cent of BPS personnel – being investigated since August 2018, and three being dismissed.
But an e-mail sent to all police officers by Deputy Commissioner of Police Darrin Simons, a “legal challenge to Superintendent Murray’s performance of the role” had revealed she could not act as the “appropriate authority” for making decisions on conduct matters, under the Police (Conduct) Orders 2016 because she was not a member of the BPS.
The September 30 e-mail has been obtained by The Royal Gazette, along with one sent more recently by Mr Simons, which tells officers to ensure they treat Ms Murray with respect and refer to her by her rank of Superintendent.
Mr Simons said in the September 30 e-mail: “In the pursuit of transparency, I write to advise that a legal challenge to Superintendent Murray’s performance of the role of Appropriate Authority (AA) has led to the understanding that, while she holds the rank of superintendent, she is not a ’member of the service’.
“Membership of the service is specifically required under the Conduct and Performance Orders and because she is seconded to the BPS and not employed by the BPS, she is not a ’member of the service’ in that regard. It’s a relevant legal technicality for the role of AA.”
Mr Simons added that the technicality did not affect her ability to lead the department and that Ms Murray was “competent, capable and deeply committed to doing what is right for members and the BPS as a whole”.
He said Ms Murray would remain head of the Professional Standards Department but he would go back to being the “appropriate authority”.
Mr Simons added: “Further, because the allegations made about officers do not arise out of her performance of the AA role, the allegations do not go away with the change.
“However, this will mean that I need to revisit those decisions Superintendent Murray made as a result of her being appointed as AA anew. This process is already under way.”
An anonymous WhatsApp message circulated earlier this week that contained allegations about Commissioner of Police Stephen Corbishley, included a claim that Ms Murray’s post in the BPS was not advertised on the island and that she was a “civilian, who has the designation of a special constable” while seconded to Bermuda.
The BPS did not respond to questions about her appointment or status in the service.
A second e-mail from Mr Simons, believed to have been sent to all BPS officers this week, said: “It has come to my attention that there is a growing level of unprofessional behaviour towards members of the BPS Professional Standards Department, particularly its head, Superintendent Murray.
“I do not intend to go into the details of the matters but, as Deputy Commissioner, I need to make it clear that I will not abide acts of disrespect or bullying – subtle or otherwise – towards any staff member or department and in particular the one that is charged with protecting the integrity, legitimacy and professionalism of the service.”
He said officers with concerns should raise them “professionally, courteously and with respect”.
The deputy commissioner added: “Some have questioned how Superintendent Murray should be addressed, with suggestions of Ms Murray or even Gill.
“For absolute clarity, the correct salutation should be Superintendent Murray, given her rank.
“We must treat each other with the values we expect towards ourselves, recognising the PSD has a very difficult and challenging role to do.”
The BPS said last month that the Professional Standards Department had 27 investigations under way – ten alleged cases of gross misconduct and 48 other complaints.
A spokesman added seven officers were suspended and ten had been put on restricted duties.
Several officers involved in disciplinary matters within the service have launched civil proceedings against the service.
Mr Corbishley said last night the BPS was “deeply concerned by efforts being made on social, as well as legacy media locally and through the leaking of selective internal documents, to create doubt over the efforts being made by our hardworking members to identify and address matters of unprofessional and, in some cases, criminal behaviour”.
He added: “The vast majority of the BPS are committed, honest and professional. However, the public should rightly expect that wrongdoing is properly addressed.”
The commissioner said there were a number of officers being dealt with “for matters of discipline, which in some cases include alleged criminal behaviour”.
He said Ms Murray was highly experienced and that she reported to the Deputy Commissioner.
Mr Corbishley added a BPS officer was expected to take over the role next year.
Mr Corbishley said: “A recent review of those currently subject to investigation, in line with the demographic of the service, suggests no issues of disproportionality.
“Whilst there has been a notable increase in cases currently being dealt with, including officers suspended, I believe that the public will see this as a positive position taken by the BPS to not sweep matters under the carpet and ensure the service works on the foundation of integrity and professionalism.
“Those who seek to undermine this duty through anonymous posts and personal attacks will not detract from our commitment in this area.”
The police are the responsibility of the Governor but it was not possible to contact anyone at Government House for comment yesterday.