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Police officer may face criminal charge

A suspended police officer could face a criminal investigation over a social-media post made just before a march in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Commissioner of Police said yesterday.

Stephen Corbishley vowed not to “brush things under the carpet”, but explained that it took time to follow “due process”.

He was speaking after the Social Justice Bermuda group asked for an update on the case.

Mr Corbishley said: “I recognise the concerns of the Social Justice Bermuda group in regards to the recent suspension of a police officer to the posting of an inflammatory meme on social media.

“I also recognise the deep hurt and anger this particular incident has caused the community.

“However, the due process we are obliged to follow in such matters takes time, not least as there is also need to engage with the Department of Public Prosecutions office to ascertain if the matter should also be subject to a criminal investigation.”

The BPS said last month that a police officer was suspended and disciplinary proceedings were started after “a disturbing social-media post by one of our own”.

Mr Corbishley said at the time: “That image is not in line with the core values and ethos of the BPS.”

Members of the public were outraged by the post, a meme of a car being driven into stick-like figures of people, with the words “All Lives Splatter. Nobody cares about your protest”.

The post was made in the run-up to a demonstration that attracted thousands of people to the streets of Hamilton in support of Black Lives Matter.

Mr Corbishley promised then that the service would “apply the relevant sanction as soon as possible”.

He said yesterday: “While I am not able to comment specifically on the stage we are at with this particular case, I do highlight the following as it applies to all misconduct investigations we deal with, which are additionally subject to oversight by the Independent Police Complaints Authority.

“Matters of wrongdoing, both misconduct and gross misconduct, are investigated in line with the police codes of conduct and Bermuda labour laws.

“There is due process to follow and this has to be observed. This can include legal representations for the person to which the allegation is made.

“We also will liaise with the DPP's office when evidence of criminal wrongdoing is suspected.”

Mr Corbishley added: “An officer, if suspended, will still receive their salary as they are not guilty until proven otherwise, again a position of civil and criminal law.”

He said that if an investigation found evidence that a complaint amounted to gross misconduct, a decision would be made to appoint a disciplinary panel with an independent chairman or woman.

Mr Corbishley added that the panel had “responsibility to decide whether the case is proved or not proved on a balance of probability and what sanction should be given, which covers a range of outcomes including dismissal”.

He said: “When this sanction is decided upon, the outcome will be published.”

Mr Corbishley added: “While this may be frustrating for some who seek immediate justice, we are legally obliged to adhere to the police codes of conduct.

“It also takes time and allows those accused to have access to a fair and unbiased disciplinary process.

“As commissioner, I am committed to never brush things under the carpet, but, equally, we must always ensure integrity in justice based on fact and judgment.”

Social Justice Bermuda said: “We see that the Bermuda Police Service has noted their intention to receive unconscious-bias training from Curb [Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda], which is a start, but it leads to more questions.”

The collective added that the post showed the officer had “neither the judgment nor empathy to be in a position of power on this island”.

Social Justice Bermuda said that it had asked for the officer to be sacked last month and “for her cases to be reviewed”.

The group asked: “Shouldn't a review of her cases be under way right now? Will this even happen as part of the ‘due process'? What exactly would a Bermuda police officer need to do to be fired on the spot?

“Social Justice Bermuda awaits answers to these questions. Otherwise, the training will do very little to demonstrate that the Bermuda Police Service is committed to the people of this island.”

On occasion The Royal Gazette may decide to not allow comments on what we consider to be a controversial or contentious story. As we are legally liable for any libellous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

Due process: Stephen Corbishley, the Commissioner of Police (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published July 16, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated July 16, 2020 at 9:02 am)

Police officer may face criminal charge

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