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Vincy policeman wins case against Bermuda Police Force

Vincy  policeman wins case against  Bermuda Police Force


After serving 10 unblemished years as part of the Bermuda Police Service (BPS), Constable Stephen Dennie had naturally expected that he would be retained as a permanent officer – as had been the case with many of his colleagues.

However, last year, he was horrified to learn that months before his second fixed term {{more}}contract was due to expire, the BPS intended to terminate his employment.

But instead of being intimidated into accepting this fate, Dennie fought the decision, taking it all the way to the Bermuda Supreme Court – and won!

In an interview with SEARCHLIGHT, the 43-year-old recalled that his woes with the BPS began in August 2015, when it sent out letters to all its contracted officers, informing them that budget cuts had to be made, due to financial constraints imposed by the Government.

These contract officers were required to indicate whether they were interested in pursuing further employment with the BPS or not.

“All contract workers here (BPS) are foreigners, except for those who are post retirement,” explained Dennie, who is of the belief that non-nationals were specifically targetted in the budget cuts.

Originally from Campden Park, Dennie said that he initially didn’t give the letter much thought, as he believed himself to be exempt, having already served a decade with the BPS. However, just to follow protocol, he replied, indicating his desire to continue employment.

Later that year, in November, a colleague of his who had joined the force in 2006 in the same batch that he [Dennie] did, received a letter from the BPS notifying him that his employment would be terminated after the completion of his then current contract.

“I was kind of taken aback eh… I felt rather shocked, but then I said maybe they were just trying to weed out somebody and he fell on the unfortunate side of things,” he admitted.

When Dennie learnt of this, he and another colleague decided to check their internal BPS email to check to see if they, too, were to be terminated. It was then that they both discovered that they had been sent emails from management, requesting that they come in to discuss their employment.

“It was at that stage that I realized that those people were going to tamper with us as well too. What the Commissioner did, he got the Superintendent in charge of our division and a chief inspector to deal with us.”

When he attended the requested meeting with management, he was dismayed to learn that his employment was also scheduled to be terminated.

“To be honest, I was utterly disappointed… It wasn’t totally surprising, but I was utterly disappointed.”

Along with two other colleagues, Dennie decided to fight the decision of termination, and they each wrote letters of complaint to the BPS Commissioner of Police Mark de Silva.

In response, the Commissioner said that he was surprised that the three officers had expected that they would be kept on after the end of their present contracts.

“His surprise only came from arrogance – that’s all that was!”

Later that same month, the three officers sought legal counsel, after the BPS remained firm in its decision to not renew their contracts.

After months of legal battle, the Supreme Court – on March 3, 2016 – ruled in favour of Dennie and his two colleagues (who are from Jamaica), stipulating that the BPS must make them permanent members of staff, hence allowing them to remain employed until retirement age (55).

According to Justice Stephen Hellman’s ruling, there had been no indication that, apart from budgetary constraints, the applicants would not have been retained.

The ruling stated: “They claim that the decision breached a legitimate expectation founded upon established practice. As to the basis of this expectation, the applicants gave unchallenged affidavit evidence that when they entered into the second FTCs (fixed contracts of employment), each understood – on the basis of the then-recent decision of the Court of Appeal and on the basis of prior discussions with the BPS – that upon the completion of 10 years’ service, their employment would become permanent and pensionable.”

Additionally, despite the Commissioner of Police having told the Supreme Court that there was no guarantee that an officer reaching his 10th year of employment with the BPS would be offered a permanent post, Justice Hellman wrote: “I am satisfied that when the applicants entered into their second FTCs in 2011, there was an established practice that, upon completion of 10 years’ satisfactory service, an officer on an FTC would be offered permanent and pensionable employment with the BPS.”

Regarding the judgement in his favour, Dennie said that he feels “vindicated” in the matter.

“There was a small minority who would have loved to see the back of us, because we are foreigners!”

He opined that he doesn’t believe that the BPS will be pursuing the matter any further – as when a ruling is handed down, the respondent has 14 days within which to appeal and the BPS has not done so.

Currently, Dennie, who joined the Royal SVG Police Force in February 1992, is still performing his duties as a constable in the BPS while he awaits his permanent work permit.

He also said that he is not worried about being slighted by the BPS in future because he won his case.

“I’m not going to rule it out, but to be honest, I’m not really concerned about that. I have been doing this job for 24 years now… and it’s a different mindset than when you just come and trying to feel yourself around the place… Unless they’re going to try to take my salary from me, I’m not going to allow them to bother me in any shape or form.”

Dennie said that although he is happy about his triumph, it saddens him that there are nine other contracted police officers (that he knows of) whose employment was also terminated, several of whom are also Vincentian.

However, they were unable to fight the decision, because they had only attained nine years of employment with the BPS.

He lamented: “The lawyer advised them that they wouldn’t have a case, so that was the end of that.”

In November 2015, the Supreme Court also ruled against the BPS in another case involving a British police officer.

The officer was awarded more than $200,000 in damages after the judge found that the officer had been discriminated against – based on his nationality – when he had been passed over for a promotion.