Ex-cop: ‘DPC threatened jail’

| 23/08/2013

(CNS): A former police officer who was in the RCIPS for more than ten years has accused police management of forcing him from the service using threats that he would be prosecuted for unfounded but very serious criminal allegations if he did not resign. In an unusual but concerning Grand Court civil case, the former traffic cop, Herbert Muschette, presented his case in a law suit this week, claiming that a combination of threats made by Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Brougham (left) and a whispering campaign against him drove him to resign against his will, but where it was clear that a police officer suspected of cime and corruption could be allowed to walk away without fear of prosecution so long as he left RCIPS.

However, as there was never any evidence that Muschette was, in fact, the shady cop that the management had suggested, he is now seeking past wages since his 2010 departure, a declaration that he was unlawfully dismissed and his job back.

During the progress of the case before Justice Alex Henderson this week DPC Brougham was called as a witness on behalf of the attorney general, who is defending the action. Brougham admitted that he suspected Muschette was involved in criminal and corrupt activity, which the service was willing to ignore should the officer leave of his own accord. However, he denied pressuring Muschette to resign 'or else', merely that he should consider his position.

He did not believe that Muschette was a proper person to serve in the RCIPS but he said he did nothing more than alert the officer to the management’s knowledge of the accusations and left him alone to consider his future.

Defending the action, the counsel from the Attorney General’s Chamber representing the RCIPS said Muschette’s decision to resign was entirely his own. She said that when Muschette was transferred from the traffic department, a post he really liked, to regular policing at George Town police station and following two general complaints that were filed with the Professional Standards Unit against him, he had resigned. Whatever Brougham did or did not say had no real influence on a decision he was considering long before the meeting, the crown claimed.

The meeting in question was when Brougham called the officer in when he was on sick leave as a result of stress. The senior officer claimed that there was intelligence that the ex-traffic cop was involved in drug trafficking, fraternizing with criminals, passing information to them and soliciting female motorists for sex in exchange for not being ticketed for traffic offences.

However, despite significant efforts by Muschette for disclosure, including a long drawn out freedom of information request, the RCIPS did not appear to have any evidence at all to support the allegations. There were two Professional Standard Unit complaints against Muschette, one was from another officer and another from a person arrested for traffic offences who had accused Muschette of being heavy handed during the arrest.

Brougham claimed during his evidence that the very serious allegations against the officer were word of mouth from people who did not want to make formal statements or registered police informants who could not. The deputy commissioner told the court that the RCIPS was not in a position at the time to instigate a proper investigation into the allegations as they were down some 85 officers. As a result, despite the seriousness of the allegations, Brougham said he had a meeting with Muschette to make it clear to him the RCIPS management was aware of what he was involved with, which he hoped would make him consider resigning.

Muschette claims that he was entirely innocent of the serious charges and was a diligent police officer who succumbed to stress related illnesses after the complaint about him being heavy handed arose. He said that he believed he was pressured by Brougham, who, Muschette said, made it very clear he would find a way to prosecute him if he did not leave.

Although Muschette had protested his innocenceand pointed to his ten year record to Brougham, he said the deputy commissioner dismissed his claims and told him that he had put away police officers who had served thirty years without concern and he would just be another one.

As a result, five weeks after his meeting with Brougham he succumbed to the pressure because he began to believe that Brougham had instigated a campaign against him to make sure he quit his police job. Muschette claimed the “resign or go to jail threat” was very clear from Brougham. The former officer also stated that he believed Brougham had turned his mentor, DPC Anthony Ennis, against him, and he also began to hold him under suspicion.

When he took the stand, Ennis denied questioning Muschette at church about the allegations. He said that all he had ever discussed with Muschette was to encourage him to stay in the RCIPS, regardless of difficult times. Ennis said that he knew exactly what it was like to be wrongly accused after his own experiences during Operation Tempura. Ennis had been at the centre of false allegations which triggered the ill-fated police corruption investigation, which began as a covert operation led by Martin Bridger in 2008 and still continues to plague the RCIPS today.

Ironically, at the same time that Brougham suspected that Muschette was a crooked officer, the police were supposed to be examining the findings and fallout of that corruption investigation but there was no indication that Muschette was ever named in the evidence collected during the Tempura probe.

Muschette said that following the meeting with Brougham and as a result of various other related incidents, with his colleagues asking him about the allegations, the pressure became so great that he made the mistake of resigning, although he did not want to quit his job.

As DCP Brougham did not follow the correct process to have him removed from the RCIPS via a disciplinary hearing, which needed to be before the commissioner, Muschette, who now works as a delivery driver, moved to take legal action against the RCIPS. He is seeking a declaration from the courts that Brougham's actions amounted to an unlawful dismissal and, as a result, he remains a serving officer and entitled to his wages over the last three years as well as pension contributions and reinstatement.

Justice Alex Henderson retired to deliberate on Thursday afternoon and is scheduled to deliver his decision Friday.

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