“I am being penalized for doing what I know to be right,” this is the lament of Corporal Quacy Baveghems.
Baveghems who is attached to the City Constabulary has been sent on administration leave after reporting an alleged case of rape by another officer. Town Clerk Royston King however maintains that Baveghems is guilty of “dereliction” of duty.
Speaking with Stabroek News yesterday Baveghems maintained that having failed to record the events in the Station log is not an offence that warrants dismissal. He further stressed that Town Clerk Royston King does not have the power to discipline him under the Municipal and District Council’s Act.
Following a report in the October 17 Stabroek News, Baveghems was dismissed for dereliction of duty since according to the Town Clerk he took no action after witnessing the juvenile being assaulted and failed to enter what he witnessed in the station dairy.
This dismissal has since been rescinded following a directive from Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan. Bulkan had written to the Town Clerk highlighting a failure of due process and natural justice in instituting the dismissal; as a result a decision was taken to have Baveghems placed on Administrative leave.
“I feel victimized and I feel punished for making this report. I am not the accused. I am not being investigated by the police. I am the witness and the reporter yet I am penalized. This is victimization on the part of both the Mayor and Town Clerk,” he lamented.
The officer who has been a member of the constabulary for 10 years and was most recently its prosecutor has denied the charges laid against him.
“How can you say I took no action? I reported it. That is the action I took. I reported what I saw both to the Assistant Superintendent and to the Chief Constable,” he said.
Baveghems also noted that he could not have made an entry in the Station Dairy since it was in the possession of the accused.
“At the time of the incident the Lance Corporal was in charge of the station and all properties came under him including arms and ammunition, the juvenile and the log book. How could I have gotten access to the book to make an entry against him?” he questioned.
On the question of why he had not tried to stop the alleged rape, he said when he became aware of the act it was at the virtual end.
The officer also directed Stabroek News to the Municipal and District Councils Act is support of his argument that the Town Clerk actions were not legal.
“Nowhere is dereliction of duty mentioned in 28:01. It mentions neglect of duty at Section 134 and specifies that it is the Chief Constable who can discipline non-commissioned officers for these offences. It even specifies the penalties which can be instituted. Dismissal is not one of those penalties,” Baveghems explained.
Section 134 directs that any non-commissioned officer or constable of the town constabulary who is found guilty by the Officer in charge of the Town Constabulary of neglect of duty or orders shall be liable to be punished by the officer in charge with punishments ranging from a reduction in rank, caution, warning or reprimand to a suspension from duty without pay for no more than 14 days.
Baveghems has been sent on leave until “further notice.”
He is still to be formally charged by either the constabulary or the council with any offence. It is this failure which he has taken to the Department of Labour and Ministry of Communities.
“I should’ve received a letter saying Corporal you have been charged with this offence and you are being called to answer to it on this day. I shouldn’t be telling you this I should’ve already been given an opportunity to represent myself if a charge was being laid. I was never charged departmentally,” he explained.
Last Tuesday, a decision was made by the council to give the Legal Affairs Committee seven business days to wrap up its report and present it to the council. Also decided, was that the decision to dismiss the two officers involved in the matter—the alleged perpetrator and the eyewitness—be rescinded, and that the men be sent on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
The Mayor and Town Clerk had been made aware of the alleged assault by a Lance Corporal on a 15-year-old boy in the custody of the city, on the day it reportedly occurred, August 23rd.
Nearly a month later, the Legal Affairs Committee was tasked with investigating whether the officers needed to be sanctioned for their actions, but before those investigations were complete, the constables at the centre of the scandal were fired by the Town Clerk.
Last month, the Lance Corporal accused was arrested by police after King alerted the police force, but he was subsequently released from custody.
Questions have been raised about why the matter was not immediately reported to the police or the Childcare and Protection Agency, as is required under the law.