Senior officer seeking damages and cost over transfer
NASSAU, BAHAMS — Assistant Commissioner of Police Ken Strachan has taken legal action against the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
Strachan is seeking damages, exemplary damages and cost, as well as other relief, alleging that the commission abused his power.
He is also seeking a declaration that his transfer to the Williemae Pratt and Simpson Penn Centers is unlawful in its terms as it amounts to a dismissal from Strachan’s senior post, a demotion in rank and wrongful termination of his contract of service.
The assistant commissioner is also seeking a declaration that his mandator leave from the RBPF earlier this year was not “properly to be classified as vacation leave” and the acts of the commissioner of police is inconsistent with the appointment, removal and disciplinary procedures.
Munroe and Associates represents Strachan, who is named as the plaintiff in the matter.
The attorney general of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas is named as the defendant.
According to the documents filed in the Supreme Court, dated December 24, 2019, the attorney general is being sued pursuant to the Crown Proceedings Act for the actions of the commissioner of the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
Strachan received a letter from the commissioner on March 20, 2019, advising him that he had accumulated 36 weeks’ vacation and some of the accumulated leave would need to be taken from March 25, 2019 to December 8, 2019.
However, Strachan claimed he advised the commissioner that he did not agree.
“He asked what I intended to do and I advised him that as he directed me not to report to work until 9th December, 2019, I would report to work when directed,” read the affidavit.
Strachan said he was advised by his attorney Wayne Munroe, QC, that as he did not wish to take vacation leave, he should not submit a request for vacation covering the period. He alleged that several acting senior executives of the police force, including the commissioner had accumulated more substantial vacation leave that he had.
According to Strachan, during his time on the force he was unable to take annual vacation leave allotted to him, which was not unusual as there was always manpower and operational needs of the organization “generally militated against officers taking annually the leave allotted to them”.
He said accumulation of leave was addressed at the time of his enlistment with the force by officers exhausting accumulated leave as pre-retirement leave.
When Strachan reported to duty on December 9, 2019, he was handed a signed letter by the commissioner appointing him as chief of security at the centers effective immediately.
He was to report to the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, according to the letter attached to the court documents.
The assistant commissioner said he met with Police Commissioner Anthony Ferguson the following day while reporting for duty, and the commissioner inquired if he had met with the minister of social services.
“I responded informing him that I had no instruction to meet with the minister of social services and my intentions were not to go to social services, but if instructed to I will; but reporting to the permanent secretary of national security as there is no linkage with social services in the terms and conditions of my employment,” read Strachan’s affidavit.
The assistant commissioner said he met with Acting Permanent Secretary of National Security Eugene Poitier and Under Secretary Cheryl Darville on the morning of December 10, and Poitier allegedly informed him that the commissioner could place him anywhere he desired.
Strachan said he returned to police headquarters having heard the permanent secretary’s legal opinion “unsupported by any reference to the Police Act or any regulations made under the constitution”.
Munroe wrote to the commissioner of Strachan’s behalf on December 12 seeking clarification on the transfer and its lawfulness. Strachan said he went to deliver that letter to the police headquarters along with a sick slip following a dentist appointment he had to extract a tooth, but was denied access when he sought to use his access card.
He claimed his assigned radio was also disabled; he was removed from the police force automated platform and the email portal. He also claimed that when he enquired about his deactivated access cards to the officer at the front desk, he was advised that instructions had been given to deactivate the card and radio.
As of Tuesday, Strachan said the commissioner had yet to respond to the December 12 letter seeking clarification concerning his transfer.
Strachan joined the police force in 1991 rising to the ranks of chief superintendent of police in 2014, before becoming an assistant commissioner of police in 2017.
During his nearly 30 years on the police force, he has acted as commander of special weapons and tactics, flying squad supervisor of the Central Detective Unit, crime manager of the south western division, and officer in charge of the mobile division, traffic division, Exuma district and firearms tracing and investigation, among other senior roles.
As assistant commissioner, his portfolio includes internal security, SWAT, marine support, air support unit, armory, police band, canine, mobile division, traffic division and the Firearm Branch.