Assistant Commissioner of Police Ken Strachan has filed legal action, alleging that the move to appoint him chief of security for the Willie Mae Pratt and Simpson Penn juvenile schools upon his return from leave on December 9, 2019 is “unlawful” and “amounts to a demotion in rank”.
Strachan further claims that Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson abused his power by directing him to report to the minister of social services and sending him and other officers on leave in March 2019 in the first place.
The suit names the attorney general as the defendant.
“Having regard to all of the circumstances and the terms of the letter dated the 9th day of December, 2019 the purported transfer of the plaintiff (Strachan) to the Willie Mae Pratt and Simpson Penn Centers is unlawful in its terms as it amounts to the dismissal of the plaintiff from his post,” the suit states.
“Having regard to all of the circumstances …the transfer of the plaintiff from the Police Headquarters as assistant commissioner of police to the Simpson Penn and Willie Mae Pratt centers as chief of security amounts to a demotion in rank.
“Having regard to all of the circumstances…the transfer of the plaintiff would amount to wrongful termination of the plaintiff’s contract of service.
“The mandatory leave from the Royal Bahamas Police Force imposed on the plaintiff is not properly to be classified as vacation leave.
“The acts of the commissioner of police are inconsistent with the appointment, removal and disciplinary procedures under the statute laws and constitution of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.”
When Strachan and seven other senior police officers were asked to take leave in March, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said it was to address “significant accumulation of leave” and that it would assist in saving the government a significant amount of money because “people are looking to be paid out in large sums” when they retire.
This was on the heels of a police force manpower audit tabled in the House of Assembly last year May which revealed that the senior command of the force was too top heavy.
Strachan claims, in the documents filed which also outline his history with the force from 1984 through to 2017, that he was unable to take his annual vacation leave during his tenure due to “manpower and operational needs of the force”, and that although he had 36 weeks of accumulated vacation, there were other officers with more accumulated time who were not accordingly placed on leave.
“During my time on the Royal Bahamas Police Force, I was unable to take the annual vacation leave allotted to me. This was not unusual as it has always been represented that the manpower and operational needs of the force generally militated against officers taking annually the leave allotted to them,” Strachan said in the document.
“This accumulation of leave was addressed at the time of my enlistment with the force by officers exhausting accumulated leave as pre-retirement leave. This has been the orthodoxy on the issue of accumulated vacation leave for the duration of my career on the Royal Bahamas Police Force.”
He also stated: “[I] along with some of my fellow colleagues namely Clayton Fernander, Lamond Deleveaux, Ashton Greenslade and Theophilus Cunningham were directed to take what was described as vacation leave from the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
“…[The] officers listed below who have all accumulated vacation leave in excess of the 36 weeks accumulated by me were not asked to take leave at the time that I was asked to take leave namely: Commissioner of Police Mr. Anthony Ferguson (in excess of 63 weeks of accumulated vacation); Assistant Commissioner Mr. Samuel Butler (in excess of 40 weeks of accumulated vacation); Assistant Commissioner Mrs. Ismella Delancey (in excess of 75 weeks of accumulated vacation); then Assistant Commissioner of Police, now Acting Deputy Mr. Paul Rolle (in excess of 36 weeks of accumulated vacation).”
Strachan states that on December 10, he met with the commissioner of police while reporting for duty that morning.
He said the commissioner inquired if he met with the minister of social services.
“I responded informing him that I had no instructions to meet with the minister of social services and my intentions were not to go to social services, but if instructed 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,” Strachan stated in the document.
Strachan stated that later that day Acting Permanent Secretary of National Security Eugene Poitier “informed me that the commissioner of police, according to the law could place me anywhere he so desires”.
“I received no information as to protocol nor did I receive any detailed briefing. Having heard the permanent secretary’s legal opinion unsupported by any reference to the Police Act or any regulations made under the constitution I left the ministry and returned to the Police Headquarters,” Strachan stated.
He said that on December 12, his access card, e-mail, his access to the police criminal profile system – which he says he was involved in implementing – and radio were all deactivated after he stepped out of office for a dentist appointment.
That same day, Strachan’s lawyer, Wayne Munroe, QC, wrote the commissioner seeking clarification on the transfer letter and requesting an urgent response to avoid legal action. The documents filed on December 24 indicate that a response from Ferguson had not yet been received.
Strachan is seeking an order that the defendant pay him damages for the “unlawful” decision to transfer him.
Dames has insisted the new appointment was not a demotion by any “stretch of the imagination” and called it a “significant responsibility”, maintaining that there was “nothing sinister” about the move to place the senior officers on leave.
Senior officer alleges commissioner abused power