Campaigners disappointed by pace of due process
Civil rights campaigners raised concerns with the Commissioner of Police yesterday about an investigation into a social-media post made just before a march in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Jasmine Brangman and Dynera Bean, of Black Lives Matter Bermuda, wrote an open letter to Stephen Corbishley, who told The Royal Gazette that the case had been passed to the Department of Public Prosecutions for review.
The Bermuda Police Service said in June that an officer was suspended “in light of a disturbing social-media post by one of our own”.
Black Lives Matter Bermuda claimed in the letter that the post was “an unsuccessful attempt to intimidate and dissuade those who were prepared to stand up for black lives”.
The letter added that the incident was called out and the “officer was made to understand that there is absolutely no space for racism here in Bermuda — not direct, covert, or institutionalised”.
It said: “With this in mind we wanted to write to express our profound disappointment over the handling of this matter.
“We struggle to understand why something posted for anyone with an internet connection to see could cause such an extended investigation. Why, 61 days later, are we still waiting for something to be done?”
The group added that, soon after the image was posted, Mr Corbishley highlighted the BPS's “commitment to address acts of misconduct”.
It said a letter was sent on June 19 to the office of Larry Mussenden, the Director of the Department of Public Prosecutions, which detailed the alleged offence it was thought had been committed.
Ms Brangman and Ms Bean wrote to Mr Corbishley: “He got back to us over a week later noting that he had forwarded our letter to you upon receipt, that you had appointed an investigation officer, and that your departments were liaising about the matter.
“Our subsequent e-mail to his office has yet to receive a response; however, at the time we remained optimistic that the situation was near being resolved.”
The letter said that Mr Corbishley discussed the investigation in a Facebook video on Wednesday.
He said then: “We do have due process, and it's the same with anything where somebody's accused, it's a process of presenting that information and the person has a right to respond, and it is taking time, but there's a legitimacy to that.”
But Ms Brangman and Ms Bean wrote: “This is unacceptable, and if it takes 61 days to get a response and deal with this the BPS policies and procedures clearly need an overhaul.”
Members of the public were outraged by the post, a meme of a car being driven into 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 said yesterday that he understood the feelings of the organisation and had tried to contact the authors of the letter.
He added: “The matter in regards to the suspended officer, while frustrating to external observers, has had to follow due process and part of that process enables an individual accused of disciplinary matters to seek legal advice and, in that regard, that has delayed our opportunity to interview the person.
“However, upon interview, as per normal processes when serious allegations are made, the matter has been sent to the DPP's office for review and we subsequently await their decision and note that the disciplinary process remains on hold until an assessment by the DPP is made.
“I fully recognise the interest in this case — however, we have to follow the relevant legal procedures.
“But I am committed that we will be transparent in our findings and keep the community informed.”
A BPS spokesman said later: “While the BPS does not agree with the comments made in the post highlighted in the open letter from BLM Bermuda, we must abide by the dictates of Bermuda laws as they exist and will now await a decision from the office of the DPP before we determine our next course of action.
“In the interim, we will not engage in any public discussion on the matter so as to ensure any impending legal action is not undermined by claims the officer in question could be denied a fair hearing due to excessive and/or biased commentary in the media.”
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