Social activist Sharmane Roland-Bowen says she feels violated by Government’s decision to engage former Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin as a consultant on crime.
Roland-Bowen, who is president of the Barbados Road Safety Association, said she was not motivated by vengeance but wanted closure on one of the most unsavoury periods of her life. Roland-Bowen is the widow of late detective Inspector Anderson Bowen who more than a decade ago blew the whistle on the Royal Barbados Police Force for allegedly engaging in illegal wiretapping.
Roland-Bowen, a born-again Christian, told Barbados TODAY that she wanted justice. She said there was an abundance of evidence that illegal wiretapping had been conducted in Barbados and if the head of the force at the time was denying it then it meant her late husband was a liar, as well as everyone else who had spoken out about it. She said her husband had a civil suit before the Supreme Court with respect to illegal wiretapping at their home but he had died before the case’s completion.
“After Anderson died, as his executor I did not continue the lawsuit because Mr Dottin was removed from the force by the Police Service Commission and that brought some measure of closure for me. But now the Government has brought him back and I feel violated, I feel as though I have been raped. This is not about Anderson anymore because he is gone, this is about me wanting justice and closure.
“I picture in my mind officers sitting and listening to my most intimate conversations with my late husband, with my sisters, personal things out there. I am no criminal and I should not have been subjected to my home being bugged,” she lamented.
In that civil suit to which she referred, her late husband indicated 12 instances of wiretapping in his affidavit. He also alleged in his court document that Dottin played taped recordings to him while in the commissioner’s office at Central Police Station. In Dottin’s response affidavit to the Supreme Court he did not deny the charges related to the wiretapping but linked the alleged action to national security. In that affidavit, Dottin stated: “With respect to the tape-recorded conversations referred to in paragraphs 22 to 32 of the applicant’s affidavit, I have formed the opinion that it is not in the public interest to disclose these as I believe that such disclosure would cause real damage in relation to the security of the island of Barbados.”
In a probe carried out by the Police Service Commission and a subsequent report dated June 10, 2013, it was revealed that then-Assistant Superintendent Lila Boyce, née Strickland, corroborated Inspector Bowen’s allegations stating that she was present when “the Commissioner manipulated his laptop computer and played a recording of a telephone conversation between Inspector Bowen and another person”. Boyce said nothing in the conversation on the recording implicated Bowen in anything unlawful.
Two Special Branch officers Sergeant Paul Lynch and Constable Erwin Bradshaw also gave sworn evidence that they had engaged in wiretapping on the instructions of Dottin. Lynch indicated there was a secret section of their operations called “political”. Among those tapped, the officers reported, were magistrates, members of the Police Service Commission, senior police officers including then Deputy Commissioner Bertie Hinds and the driver of former Prime Minister Owen Arthur. The Police Service Commission has indicated that it is in possession of some of these illegal recordings.
A visibly aggrieved Roland-Bowen told Barbados TODAY that the police force was there to uphold the law and that if it wanted to carry out any such surveillance action it should be done within the law and not outside of it. She said there were people in the country who knew an injustice had been done but would pretend or act as though nothing had occurred. She stressed that she was not political and had spoken out when the Democratic Labour Party “was doing nonsense” in Barbados and believed that the current Government had now miss-stepped with Dottin.
“I am calling a spade a spade. We must not allow politics and friendships to come before justice. That is wrong. This system has let me down. I need closure, by talking to the media, I am releasing some of what I am now feeling. I don’t think innocent people should be subjected to this. You cannot reward wrong,” she said.
Roland-Bowen added she believed the pressure of being suspended in December 2005 for almost five years from a job he loved after going public with what was happening in the police force had contributed to her husband’s death. At that time Bowen called publicly on Dottin to quit in the interest of the organisation and the general public. Bowen was later exonerated and reinstated in 2010 but assigned as the provost officer at Central Station responsible for menial tasks which had never before been assigned to such a high-ranking officer.
“He was one of the best detectives in the force, a street cop and he loved his job. But his suspension bothered him and he always studied it, complained of constant headaches, his pressure was very high, and he would sometimes ask me to put my hands on his forehead when it pained him. I believe this entire episode helped kill my husband and made me a widow prematurely,” she said.