POLICE officers are being encouraged to report their colleagues if they suspect they are involved in corrupt activities or are breaching the law.
The advice was given by Justice Frank Seepersad who yesterday dismissed a libel lawsuit brought by a retired inspector against one of his juniors who had complained of a decision he took as it related to the inspection of licenced liquor dealers.
Retired Insp Kester Billy sued Cpl Christopher Joshua for slandering his name and for compensation.
Joshua, on November 29, 2012, wrote to then head of the Port of Spain Division, Snr Supt Stephen Ramsubhag, complaining of a decision Billy took two days earlier when he announced that the inspection of the books of licenced liquor dealers in the division would be stopped for December.
Joshua, in his report to Ramsubhag, alleged that the decision of Billy was corruptly inclined and an abuse of the senior officer’s authority since the police service’s regulations and standing orders, as well as the Liquor Licences Act, provides for the monthly inspection of licenced dealers by the police to ensure their inventory corresponds to what is contained in the licences.
Joshua said in evidence yesterday, he performed that duty prior to Billy being assigned to the Woodbrook Police Station. He said he was not comfortable when the senior officer made the announcement. He denied he reported Billy because he was angered or out of malice.
Billy, however, said while he made the decision, it was his intention to carry out the inspection exercise himself.
He said he did not tell his juniors of his plan when he told them they will not be conducting inspections for December. Billy also accused Joshua of not following the rules by jumping the chain of command and going straight to the head of the division.
In dismissing Billy’s claim for damages for libel, Seepersad said Joshua should be applauded for reporting what he perceived to be in breach of the law.
He said Joshua had proved his defence on qualified privilege and fair comment since his complaint to the head of the division was done in the public’s interest and out of concern, especially since Billy did not communicate to his juniors that he would instead undertake the task.
Seepersad said Joshua’s action was warranted because of his concern that inspections were to be stopped during December, which, according to the judge, is tied with the Carnival period for highest alcohol consumption levels.
The judge said police officers should be willing to take their concerns to those above their rank
“They should be prepared to let their voices be heard.”
Seepersad said the police service was “fraught with numerous complaints of allegations of corruption” and it was its duty to address corruption among the ranks if it was to treat with the spiralling crime situation.
He said the service cannot address crime unless it is first able to purge itself of corrupt officers.
“Only when we have a police serving operating on that premise can criminal activities be addressed.”
Billy was ordered to pay Joshua’s legal bills in the sum of $14,500. Joshua was represented by Sheldon A Mitchell, while Phillip Wilson represented Billy.