Recruit fights ‘body-shaming’
A former top police officer is poised to take legal action against the Bermuda Police Service after they booted his son off recruit training about two weeks before graduation because he was ruled to be overweight.
Michael Jackman, who ended his career as deputy commissioner after 32 years on the job, is back on the island from his native Barbados to back up his son Jeral's battle to be reinstated in time for the class passing-out parade on Friday.
Mr Jackman, who retired in 2014, said his Bermudian son, who had almost completed the tough six-month recruit foundation course, was “body-shamed” when he was told he did not meet a body mass index standard.
His father said: “He is a big guy — like most Bermudians are. Even if they could legally implement a body mass index policy, it would have to be applicable to Bermudians, but they don't have the authority to do that.
“There is no provision for a commissioner to impose a BMI standard on one police officer. That's why I am so annoyed.”
Mr Jackman, who was awarded the Overseas Territories' Police Medal for Meritorious Service in 2012, added that he would “fight this unjust, illegal and unlawful behaviour to the full extent of the law”.
He explained that the police conditions of service only stipulated that an officer had to be “fit for duty”.
Mr Jackman said he had spoken to Darrin Simons, the acting deputy commissioner and “pointed out that what he was doing was wrong”.
He added: “They can't introduce a policy or something that only affects a few people. There is a conditions of service order.”
Mr Jackman said that he did not think Commissioner of Police Stephen Corbishley could meet a BMI standard of 30, which he said was expected of his son.
He added: “I would make a bet that 65 to 75 per cent of police officers couldn't make that standard.
“I would have been considered overweight by that standard. There are adjustments for age, but many officers could still not meet the standard.”
Mr Jackman said his son, a medal winner in the IAMA Taekwondo World Championships a decade ago while still a schoolboy, had gone to the Police Association to lodge a complaint.
He added: “I don't know where that's gone. But it's unlawful and we can't let it stand.”
Mr Jackman said the letter given to his son suspended him for two weeks and gave him two weeks to respond, but that it was clear the commissioner “has the intention of dismissing him”.
He added: “He should be back at work preparing for his graduation.”
Mr Jackman, in a letter to The Royal Gazette, said Jeral, 26, applied to join the service in 2019 and had the required medical.
He added his son was told he was over the BMI limit set by senior officers, but that he agreed to go on a weight reduction programme and also consulted a dietitian for help.
Mr Jackman wrote: “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.”
Mr Jackman added that officers were governed by the Police Act 1974 and the conditions of service order. He said: “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 conditions 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 only be addressed in one way. Surprisingly, the senior command of the BPS thinks that someone's BMI is a performance issue.”
Mr Jackman said that his son had “met and exceeded” the academic standards of the course and skill assessments and had scored 88 out of 91 in the final knowledge exams, as well as passed a police driving test.
He added: “He has also exceeded all of the standards for the job-related fitness test.”
Darrin Simons, the acting deputy commissioner, said last night: “The Bermuda Police Service acknowledges that this is a difficult set of circumstances.
“Notwithstanding, the Bermuda Police Service can confirm that Mr Jackman has been removed from the course, as he has not met a pre-employment contractual condition.
“The matter is ongoing and, in keeping with the principles of natural justice, Mr Jackman has been given a period of time to submit additional information to the commissioner's office for consideration. As such, it is inappropriate for the BPS to make further comment.”
Letter, page 4