Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite Tuesday deflected questions about recent allegations by a Grenadian family that they were humiliated by officers of the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) last October after they were falsely accused by a store owner in Bridgetown of stealing a mobile phone.
Asked Tuesday morning to comment on the claims by the Gilbert family, Brathwaite said his knowledge of the matter was limited to snippets he had seen on social media, and the matter should instead be raised with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who has overall responsibility for immigration.
“Next time you see the Prime Minister, stop him and speak to him about that. I don’t know anything about it. I saw it on social media like you. That was a couple of days ago, not so? So I don’t know if it is true or otherwise,” Brathwaite said on his way to Parliament.
This notwithstanding, the state’s chief legal adviser questioned the veracity of the information from the Grenadians, who have sworn that they will never return to Barbados.
Tamika Gilbert and her sister Lynell, along with their mother, father and a cousin, none of whom want to be named, were here three months ago for a visit to the United States embassy to have their visas renewed, a process which they successfully completed early in the day.
With their flight home scheduled for late in the evening, they decided to go into Bridgetown for some shopping and to enjoy each other’s company, since they had never travelled as an entire family before, Tamika told Barbados TODAY last week.
Confident of their innocence after they were accused of stealing the phone, they reportedly offered to have their bags searched by the storeowner, who turned down the offer and said she would check recordings from security cameras, Tamika said.
Instead, “an excessive amount of police officers showed up at the scene”, some in plain clothes, others in reflective vest helmets and bullet proof vests, she charged.
The Gilbert family said they were later taken to a police station where Tamika and her sister say they were virtually stripped of their dignity by the officers, who shouted at them, insulted them, prevented them from speaking to other family members, brought them water three hours after they had made a request, and had one sister use the toilet with the door opened and an officer standing guard.
However, the most humiliating experience, Tamika said, was when they were strip searched.
Brathwaite Tuesday sought to pour cold water on some of the allegations, questioning whether the RBPF had the type of riot gear described in the family’s account.
“You need to speak to police and immigration. That’s where you need to begin. I saw pictures of police in riot gear. We have that type of riot gear? . . . So from the time I saw that I stopped looking at it,” the Attorney General said.
The issue has erupted into a media firestorm in Grenada, with some Grenadians calling for a boycott of Barbadian goods and services.
While calling for cooler heads to prevail, Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell has advised the Freundel Stuart administration that it may need to seriously rein in its law enforcement officers.
“The truth is watching it and listening to it, it doesn’t look well or doesn’t sound well at all, particularly given the need for continued deepening of the [Caribbean Community] family unit,” Mitchell told Barbados TODAY in an interview Monday.
“It seems to me that there might have been an over-reaction from a report, and if what I saw is true, the [Barbadian] police may have to examine their approach in a matter of this nature because, as it turns out, there may not be any basis for it from all reports I have heard.”
The RBPF said in a statement last Friday it would investigate the allegations and issue a press release upon completion of the probe.