COMMENTARY: Stripping Teachers – Peeking For Money

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By Rawlston Pompey

When Max Erhmann, a German national, an attorney, businessman and poet [1872-1945], brought global awareness of the prose poem ‘Desiderata,’ its contents speak to various human encounters. It speaks to ‘…an unfolding universe’ that exposes humans to challenging experiences. Life would be confusing and noisy; …there would be ‘…love; …affection; …broken dreams; …loneliness and dark imaginings. These would manifest themselves in ‘…misfortunes; …disappointment; …disenchantment and indignities.’ Even so, in the changing fortunes of life; and trials and tribulations, people were to hold themselves to ‘…High ideals.’ They shall harbor no lazy feelings, but labor that they may aspire and enjoy their achievements. In all theses, the complexities of life and the unpredictable nature of man have made life for many honest and upright citizens, difficult. There is ‘…Trickery; …Sham and Treachery.’

MISSING MONEY REPORT

In the midst of all these, it speaks to human miseries that have seen many people descended to the depths of despair. Undoubtedly, this may have been the experiences of fourteen educators whose liberty and freedom of movement had been restrained for a crime, undignified and futile searches by police investigators have vindicated. When investigators converged on the premises of the All Saints Secondary School (ASS), it was not in response to sightings of the second ‘…Most Dangerous; …Most Wanted; and …Most Elusive Fugitive, Calvin ‘…Burger James’ [Police BOLO (Be on Look Out)].  They had done so in consequence of a ‘…Missing Money Report,’ made by a fellow teacher [October 11, 2018]. Giving clear indications of an intention to increase the population of an institution, notorious for its ‘…wretchedly harsh conditions,’ investigators had ‘…corralled; …detained and interrogated’ fourteen educators and ancillary staff members, whose work-day had not ended.

GROPING FOR WORDS

Now, while Police investigators sought to ascertain how some ‘…EC$ 4, 500’ mysteriously disappeared from the handbag of a Music teacher, reportedly left in the communal Staff Room, they shall also ascertain whether or not such sum had really existed. Since man often ‘…grope’ for other things, it had to be something extraordinary for Director of Education Clare Browne to be ‘…Groping For Words’ [OMG: October 18, 2018]. Even so, it was certainly not about the mysterious disappearance of ‘…an existed or non-existed sum of money.’ Instead, it was over the appalling investigative approach by police investigators and the objectionable treatment meted out to some fourteen teachers and ancillary Staff at the All Saints Secondary School. Then there seemed to be a troubling and nagging headache for Acting Commissioner of Police Atlee Rodney. He shall provide answers to the stakeholders, including Principal George Edwards, who though absent, has responsibilities to his Staff and student body and the Ministry of Education who have reposed confidence in him as a Principal and institutional leader.

PERSPECTIVE

This commentary looks on at that which had provoked national outrage; …incensing the ‘…Teaching fraternity; …Antigua and Barbuda Union of Teachers’ Union (ABUT); …Parents and Guardians; …Student Bodies; …Parent Teacher Association; …Director of Education, Clare Browne; …Members of the wider society; and equally dismayed Acting Commissioner of Police, Atlee Rodney. It focuses on ‘…Investigative Police Procedures; (b) …Strip Searches’ that appeared not to have been (i) ‘…reasonably justified; and (ii) …not conducted under the authority of law and inconsistent with provisions contained in the Constitution; and aspects of the ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in the ‘…Seminal Shanique Myrie Case’ [Myrie v State of Barbados: No. OA: 002 of 2012].’

EXERCISABLE POWERS

In dealing with persons suspected of the commission of crimes, while the Judges Rules [1964], guide investigators in martialling the facts or gathering evidence relevant to the ‘…Fact in Issue,’ in obtaining confession statements from suspects or accused persons. Though often misconstrued, the ‘Rules’ provide no ‘…Exercisable Powers’ of arrest, detention or search. Additionally, the Judges Rules provide no authority for investigators to enter private property or to conduct searches of the person of another without their consent. Moreover, they provide no authority to Police investigators to (a) ‘…Enter onto School premises without the Principal’s permission; (b)  …Commandeer Staff Rooms;  (c) …Set up Command and Interrogation Centers; (d)  …Detain suspected students and/or teachers; and (e) …Conduct body cavity searches.’

THE PURSUITS

None may deny the unpredictable nature of man; and none may deny his often repugnant attitude toward his fellowmen. In man’s psyche and endeavors, there is the pursuit of peace of mind, love and happiness. There has always been a burning desire to be financially empowered. Hence, the irrestible urge for the acquisition of wealth, whether legitimately or illegitimately, honestly or crookedly. This allows for financial independence and ultimately, the enjoyment of the finer things of life. Even so, these may be achieved through honesty and by dint of hard work. However, somewhere and somehow, man is confronted with challenges of all kinds. There is the inescapability of danger, pain and peril, as there is the inescapable humiliation and degradation. Most frighteningly, there is greed, trickery and treachery, as there is embarrassment and disappointment, and ‘…likened to money, when a good name is filched.’

VAGARIES OF LIFE

These, undoubtedly, are among the daily experiences of humans. These also reflect the ‘…Vagaries of Life,’ where even in the workplaces, when thing go wrong or so made to be, the innocent have been made to suffer blame or indignities. Other than access to the ‘…communal Staff Room,’ there appeared to have been ‘…no reasonable grounds for suspecting members of Staff present on the premises, reportedly in their occupation assisting students, while others were reported to have been preparing ‘…Lesson Plans’ for teaching sessions on the following day. Though the searches speak to futility, when embarrassingly not even a dollar was recovered, the telling blow to their ego, reputation, honesty and integrity, shall remain, not in the dark recess of their mind, but in their memory under a shining light.

CRAZIEST MOMENTS

In his light moments, renowned social commentator Slinger Francisco, ‘Mighty Sparrow,’ wittily, yet suggestively posited two ways modern man has been searching for ‘…Salt Fish.’ Back then, man never used violence to acquire it, he simply purchased it from grocery shops. Lyrically, Sparrow explains two accompaniments for searches provoked by anger. He said that (i) ‘…Man does pull gun to find it.’ If security was compromised, he went on to say that (ii) ‘…Man does lick down man to find it’ [Song: Salt Fish: You Tube]. Such philosophical approaches shall be viewed with serious concern. Lest man was prepared to go to jail, there may be no need to brandish guns or to drink rum to find neither ‘…Salt Fish; …Drugs; nor Money.’ He may not have envisaged that in his ‘…Craziest Moments,’ man has put nooses around his neck to cease enduring miseries when he could not find something ‘…Eat; …Smoke or Spend.’ In the case of the police investigators, they may have seen that which could not be spent.

VISUAL INSPECTION

Consequent upon a report of ‘…Missing Money,’ they were interrogated, urged to hand over the money, then subjected to the indignity of ‘…Strip Searches,’ by a team of inexperienced detectives that reportedly ordered improper exposure of body cavities for them for ‘…Visual Inspection’ of their reproductive organs. Humans, on the other hand, are endowed with conscience and reason. They are gifted with speech and possess varying levels of intelligence, intellectuality and understanding. Even with barriers, they communicate in different languages. While individuals often show insensitivity to the feelings of others, it has been no less troubling that those endowed with reason and conscience,’and have responsibility for enforcing law, continue to be spotlighted for professional incompetence, inappropriate actions and/or procedural ignorance. The instant case speaks to these.

CONSENSUAL SEARCH

The Constitution unambiguously states ‘…Except with his consent, no person shall be subjected to the search of his person or property, or the entry by others on his premises’ [CO: 1981: Section 10]. Even as the Constitution so states, there may be ‘…no inconsistency or contravention,’ when done under the authority of law and with reasonableness and justification. For instance, in the investigative process, personnel equipped with professional knowledge shall know inter alia that, ‘…An objectively justifiable suspicion that is based on specific facts or circumstances and justifies stopping and searching a person, may provide reasonable grounds to suspect that a person has committed a criminal act or about to, or loitering to commit one.’ From law enforcement perspective, this is far removed from the suggestion and advocacy of Director of Education, Clare Browne [ANR: September 25, 2018].  Without more, a mere report does not confirm actual or constructive possession of property or the existence of it.

VICTIMS OF CIRCUMSTANCE

With an overall Staff of about ‘…one hundred educators and ancillary workers at the All Saints Secondary School, educators reportedly numbering about eighty four completed their teaching assignments for the day [October 11, 2018]. Little that fourteen knew that their status would have been changed to criminal suspects, of  which prima facie evidence had not shown were conspiratorially involved. Moreover, little they may have known that they would have been the subject of criminal investigation, thereby suffered the indignities of ‘…Police Strip Search’ in their communal Staff room. They may not only have considered themselves ‘…Victims of Circumstance,’ resulting from improper investigative procedures, but also questionable professional judgement, insensitivity and indiscretion.

PHYSICAL AND VISUAL SEARCHES

Law enforcement training emphasized that third party reports of crime shall be ‘…Well-founded.’ Thus, investigating officers shall feel sure that there are ‘…reasonable grounds’ to conduct searches; arrest or detain persons implicated in criminal activity. Respecting search of person or private property, it may be (i) ‘…Physical (touching) or (ii) …Visual (viewing).’ These, when properly and justifiably applied, often assist investigators in establishing factuality of the existence of property that became the subject of criminal investigation. Rationality and good professional judgment also help to inform good decisions and justifiable actions. In the instant case without establishing factuality, investigators wanted to see what the dentist never sees.’

CRIMINAL SUSPECTS

Even when there was no evidence that a crime has been committed or reasonable grounds to suspect a person or to identify him/her as the culprit, the innocent is sometimes categorized as ‘…Criminal Suspects.’ In extraordinary circumstances this has been the case of many persons, including a Jamaican national Shanique Myrie, and now the case for ‘…fourteen dedicated Antiguan and Barbudan teachers.’ Committed to assist students by conducting extra teaching sessions, after the general student body had been dismissed at 1.30 pm [October 11, 2018], and after the Principal George Edwards, along with some seventy other educators had left the school’s premises, ‘…fourteen members of staff’ were reportedly detained and interrogated in the Staff Room by investigators, who not only appeared to have lacked procedural knowledge and starved of formal investigative training.

CCJ RULING

When the Jamaican national instituted litigation proceedings against the State of Barbados, she had accused Barbadian Immigration officers of conducting ‘…an illegal cavity search on her body.’ These proceedings were under the judicial considerations of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), sitting in its ‘…Original Jurisdiction.’ It was clear that those officers had been on a fishing expedition to unearth evidence to satisfy, not necessarily ‘…reasonable suspicion,’ as required by law, but also their ‘…personal belief and curiosity.’ Expressing judicial distraught, it states, ‘…In performing an illegal cavity search, a female Immigration officer …violated her fundamental human rights and freedoms contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; …the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and the American Convention on Human Rights.’ Some investigators may not have learned any lessons from the ‘…Shanique Myrie Case.’

DONKEY BRUTALITY

While the donkey sometimes instinctively responds with ‘…kicks and bites’ and subjected to painful brutality,’ it is not endowed with the ‘…Dignity of Man,’ and has no gift of speech to complain of human abuse. Though animals were created with instincts, many have shown the ability in mimicking human behavior. In displaying certain behavior or making distinctive sounds, humans often make interpretations as to what they might be attempting to say and accordingly respond to interpretative needs. Misinterpretation often leads to ‘…Donkey Brutality.’ Behaviorally, men fight for the reign of dominance or to show the exercise of power, often in the most controversial, irrational and brutal way. Biblical teachings edifies of a peculiar occurrence, when ‘…Balaam’s Donkey’ spoke of the brutal way it was treated. Though it had acted wisely in avoiding danger and averting consequences to its owner, it was mercilessly beaten. Its behavior appeared to have been gravely misinterpreted.

DONKEY MENTALITY

Inspired by God and at a precise moment in time, it was provided with the gift of speech. In cogent and concise language, it asked ‘…What have I done to be beaten three times [NIV: Numbers 22]?’ Paraphrasing, its owner responded, ‘…How dare you ask me such question? You are lucky I didn’t have a sword to cut off your damn head.’ Incidentally, and luckily for Balaam’s Donkey, it was an Angel that he had not seen, that possessed a sword to remove the head of the ‘…spiritually indiscernible; …irrational and brutal Balaam.’ He had committed the grave act of treachery. Applied to humans, though endowed with reason and conscience, man continues to exhibit behaviors that had fallen short of the discernible instinct of ‘Balaam’s Donkey.’

SEMINAL JUDGMENT

If there may have been any doubt as to what had transpired at the Staff Room at the All Saints Secondary School (ASS), the Shanique Myrie Case makes the point. Litigating against the Barbados Government, with intervener ‘…State of Jamaica,’ the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), then under Presidency of Sir Dennis Byron with other Justices, including current President Adrian Saunders, delivered a ‘…Seminal Judgement.’ There were compensatory considerations of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Though two Barbadian Narcotics officers had played a role in causing her luggage to be double-checked for controlled drugs she had not possessed, in evidence before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), they denied that they had suspected her as a ‘…drug trafficker.’ The Court was adamant that the officers were untruthful and rejected their evidence. It states ‘…The cavity search was conducted in what could only have been an investigation to assess the possibility was a drug trafficker’ [Shanique Myrie v State of Barbados: Case No. OA: 002 of 2012: Para. 98].

DRUG MULES

Police investigators (Antigua & Barbuda), have now developed an approach to find anything, including money they believed to be concealed on the human person. In the Shanique Myrie Case, evidence adduced before the ‘CCJ’ showed that the 22 year-old Jamaican national was coerced into submitting her body to a cavity search. She had no way of knowing that no authority existed in law. She had been unreasonably suspected to be a ‘…Drug Mule,’ negative only when a luggage and ‘…Body Cavity-Search’ at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA), ‘revealed no drugs’ [March 24, 2011]. Similarly, when ‘…fourteen teachers and ancillary staff at the All Saints Secondary School (ASS)’ were subjected to ‘…coercive body cavity searches,’ they were deceptively made to believe that authority of law resided with the investigators [October 11, 2018].

SQUATTING POSITION

In human interactions, including the enforcement of laws, humans exhibit behavior far removed from that exhibited by the one  that had saved ‘Balaam’ from danger. Not infrequently, some men have behaved in ways that had shown a consistency with ‘…Donkey Mentality.’ Teachers whose ‘…honesty and integrity’ may never have been previously questioned, had not only been subjected to criminal investigation, but also by searches of their person. The ill-formed suspicions and ill-advised approach had had not only led them to take peeks at the private parts of the male and female teachers rounded up on the School’s premises, but also forcing them into a ‘…Squatting Position’ then coerced to ‘…Cough’ that anything that may have been cavity-stuffed, may have ejected to view. Without the benefit of formal investigative training, apparently prematurely came to three conclusions.

VERIFIABLE FACTS

Reasonable inferences may have been drawn, that  in the absence of ‘…Verifiable Facts’ of actual possession of, and mysterious disappearance of the sum of EC$4, 500, the investigators appeared to have (i) ‘…Accepted as fact, the reporter had possessed such sum of money;’ (ii) …Without reasonable suspicion, concluded that the fourteen teachers and ancillary Staff, had stolen it from a handbag left unattended in the Staff Room; (iii) …With clearly pre-conceived notion,  investigators unjustifiably likened the teachers to ‘…Drug Mules,’ thus, categorized and treated them as ‘…Cash Mules.’ Then from a harbored mistaken belief, aggravatingly and humiliatingly subjected them to searches of body cavities where the moon never shines and the sun neither rises nor sets, and sometimes husbands cannot see.

CASH MULES

The members of Staff had been suspected to be ‘…Cash Mules,’ with possible concealment of EC$ 4, 500’ in their anatomy. These were searches that appeared to have crossed the line of human dignity. The educators, subjected to a search regularly conducted on ‘…Drug Couriers’ at the V.C. Bird International Airport (VCBIA), had provoked national outrage and wide media coverage. Compounded by insensitivity, those who ordered ‘…Stripping of Teachers’ and stood there ‘…Peeking’ at their body cavities,’ appeared to have crossed the line of civility back over to incivility. Though it was not quite the dicta of eminent Justices on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as it was in the ‘…Shanique Myrie Case,’ investigators may have been reckless not to have taken cognizance of its recent Judgment, resulting from litigation proceedings instituted against the ‘…State of Barbados.’

FALSE BELIEF

It was evident that there was no credible evidence to lead investigators to believe that a crime had been committed, and that those detained had been reasonably suspected to be the perpetrators. The futility of the search, prompted by a ‘…False Belief,’ had led to actions by law enforcement personnel that appeared ‘…woefully short of investigative skills; …starved of procedural knowledge; …lacking insensitivity; and showed recklessness and callous disregard for the dignity of the human person. Social commentator ‘…Singing Sandra’ succinctly posits ‘…They want to see the whole anatomy’ [Die with My Dignity: You Tube]. Their approach may very well have subjected them to a spell of hypnosis, as they left the School’s premises, neither with honey nor money.

CONSTRUCTIVE POSSESSION

In a mind clearly saturated with idealism, he urged ‘…Speak the truth quietly.’ He may have inadvertently overlooked human treachery, a Judas-like traitthat has brought many innocent people to tears, subjecting them to ‘…cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.’ None may deny that such have been the enduring experiences of ‘…fourteen professional teachers and ancillary Staff’ at the All Saints Secondary School. They were suspected to have concealed on their bodies the reported, but ‘…unverified sum of EC$ 4, 500,’ said to have been in the ‘…Constructive Possession,’ of a fellow teacher. The money was said to have been entrusted by a third party, a partially immobile elderly female, and held for the expressed purpose of purchasing a refrigerator in downtown St. John’s.

FULL EXPOSURE

From these perspectives, there may have been a two-pronged investigative approach- ‘…one on the reporter and the other on other possible suspects.’ Incidentally, in seeking to recover reported ‘…Missing Money,’ investigators need only to give orders for ‘…Full Exposure’ of body cavities by removing everything to expose possible areas of concealment. It is without debate that trending ‘…Conveyance and Concealment’ of illegal drugs and money, necessitate counter-measures of interception and recovery. Investigators have likened these cavities to the practice obtained in criminal proceedings where Defence and Prosecution may demand ‘…Full Disclosure’ of anything of relevance to the fact in issue or of evidential value. However, the investigators may have been naïve to believe that a person who would have ‘…fingered EC$4, 500’ would linger around to be held with such sum.

LIBERTY AND DIGNITY

Consequent upon such trend, Police investigators appeared to have developed certain methodologies, employing tactics that have outraged the populace. In the case of ‘Drugs,’ they only need to form suspicion that a person may have in their possession. Conversely, in the case of ‘Money,’ true or false, they only need to receive a report. Not infrequently, investigators, overwhelmed by zeal, faltered. Issues of procedural significance, with practical relevance often arise, impacting the ‘…Liberty and Dignity’ of individuals. For, instance, if investigators believed that what is being sought is concealed in body cavities they may employ strategies as are necessary or expedient. Thus, it matters not if the targeted is at VC Bird International Airport (VCBIA) or at institutions of learning. 

AUTHORITY OF PRINCIPALS      

Notwithstanding the purpose for which Police investigators would have respond to incidents at School, line members of Staff are under the direct authority; …control and supervision of Principals of all Schools, whether public or private. While issues arising in the course of the performance of duty shall be brought to the attention of the School’s Principal, those occurring during such performance of duty, that speak to a ‘…personal nature,’ may also be brought to the attention of the School’s Principal. The instant case is no exception. That which shall be understood, is that likened to intrusive and irate parents/guardians; …expelled school bullies or suspended students, investigators acting recklessly and with callous disregard to the authority and responsibility of Principals, would also have been ‘…interrupting; …disturbing or disquieting a body of persons (teachers/students) lawfully assembled for a moral purpose’ [Section 18 (4); Small Charges Act: Chapter 405].

SHODDY TREATMENT

Those familiar with criminal investigations know from formal investigative training techniques and practical experience, special skills are developed over time. Most investigators are discerning, inquisitive; …meticulous; …thorough and pay very close attention to detail.’ Those that lacked such training and experience had often found themselves in professional difficulties.Invariably, they have subjected people to ‘…Shoddy Treatment,’ exposing their deficiencies, thereby bringing discredit to the reputation of the Police Service. For instance, the lead investigator was quoted as saying, ‘…I know one of you have the money, and we are going to find it.’ This not only reflected the lack of ‘…an open-minded approach,’ but also an ill-formed belief that at least one teacher was a kleptomaniac. Yet the investigators had difficulty, identifying the one with such obsession.

CONCLUSION                                                    

To all intents and purposes, the approach taken by the investigators had in fact, showed consistency with treatment often given to ‘…Common Criminals.’ As insensitivity, together with behavior associated with Tribes in the ‘…Wilds of Africa,’ would have it, fourteen teachers had not only been deprived of their liberty and freedom of movement, albeit temporary, but also the ‘…constitutional presumption of innocence’ [CO: 1981: Section 15]. Though no one had been identified by the reporter as the suspect, reasonably inferences may have been drawn that the investigators had personally believed that one or more or the fourteen teachers had conspired to deprive her of money, reportedly left unattended in a communal Staff Room. The methodology applied in the conduct of the investigative search, appeared inconsistent with reasonableness and justification. In understanding this contention, one need only to remove the acronym ‘ASS’ from the name of the ‘…All Saints Secondary School (ASS), and used in the context of criminal investigation. Such might justifiably ascribe to the action and behavior of the investigating team. It has brought no credit to the reputation of the Police Service, subjecting those of better judgment; …a good sense of purpose and direction, and with greater regard for the ‘…dignity and worth of the human person’ in a society of free men and women and free institution’ [Founding Constitution Principle A].

2 COMMENTS

  1. BALAAM DONKEY

    Even subjected to a cruel beating by its owner sitting comfortably on its back,
    ‘…Balaam Donkey’ still pressed on.

    If that Donkey was around today, it would probably ask ‘…Is your brain in pain?
    Seemed you are way out of touch with what happened to those innocent teachers.

    Read it over again, your pain might just go away, but only to the extent that you
    free up your brain.

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