The student showing her laptop which police suspected was the one which was stolen. (Picture by Maria Bradshaw.)
A ST MICHAEL WOMAN claims she was mistreated by two police officers after she was taken into custody on Tuesday and questioned about a stolen laptop.
The 26-year-old, who lives in St Michael, accused the police of failing to follow protocol by entering her home without showing her a warrant.
The woman said the experience had left her and her family traumatised and angry and she had lodged an official complaint with the Police Complaints Authority.
Her mother explained that in the wee hours of Tuesday morning she was awakened from her bed by a series of loud “booms” on her side door.
“I looked through the window and I saw all of these men standing outside and they asked for my daughter.”
She said when she opened the door and let them in they asked for her daughter’s bedroom and went straight to it without explaining their presence.
Her daughter recalled that she was in bed sleeping with her eight-year-old child when she heard a loud noise and her bedroom door flew open.
“I jumped out of my sleep and so did my daughter and the police just started questioning me about a stolen laptop. I was just wearing my underclothes and there were six males and one female in my room. They did not even give me an opportunity to get dressed and I was standing up feeling very uncomfortable,” she said as she added that her daughter started crying as well.
The young woman said she handed over her laptop to the police and they proceeded to search her room before telling her that they were taking her to the station. That was when they allowed her to get dressed.
The woman’s mother said that while the officers were leaving, one stuck a blue paper in her hand which turned out to be a warrant but she could not read it because the writing was not legible.
The woman said that on the way to the District “A” Police Station, she was verbally assaulted by the cops.
“They told me if I don’t tell them where the laptop is I will get real . . . blows when I get to the station. One said this is my last chance before I get there to lick in my tail and they ain’t mekking no . . . sport with me.”
When they arrived at the station the woman said the cops stuck to their threats with the female officer continuously hitting and poking her in the face while a male officer violently jabbed her in the back.
“At one point the female officer held on to the chair which I was sitting on and fling it across the room,” she recounted.
The woman, whose brother repairs electronic items, said she related to the police how a man turned up at her home last Friday with a laptop asking for her brother and saying that he had a laptop to sell.
“I told him that my brother was not at home and he left the laptop there and said he was coming back. When my brother got home and inspected the laptop he saw that it had a security device on it and he gave it back to the man.”
It was then that the police informed her that the laptop had a tracking device on it and they had traced it to the Cave Hill area.
However, after relating to the story to the cops, the woman, who is a full-time student at the Cave Hill Campus, said they became even more verbally abusive.
“They were telling me that I sleeping with the man who carrying away these devices and that I paying my university fees from selling stolen devices. I had to explain to them that I have a loan from the Students Revolving Loan Fund and I have my receipts to prove it. They even told me that they were going to call the Child Care Board to take away my child because I was a thief and I better tell them where the . . . laptop is or I will now see blows.
“I told the female officer that I had just had dental surgery on my jaw two weeks ago and she was hurting me when she hit me in my face and she said she didn’t give a . . . what was hurting me.”
The woman said that sometime later, the owner of the stolen laptop arrived at the police station but when he was shown her laptop, he said it did not belong to him.
“An officer then came into the room and took me to another room and told me to tell him what happened. I related the same story about the man who had come to my house with a laptop and he told me that he believed me. I then told him in front of my sister and the female officer who had hit me, what she and the male officer had done to me and he told me that he apologised on their behalf. I told the sergeant thanks for the apology but she [the female officer] wouldn’t even apologise for hitting me in my face and the female officer said, ‘Nope! absolutely not!’”
The student said the sergeant then handed her the laptop and told her she was free to go. So upset was she about this treatment that as soon as she got home she contacted the Police Complaints Authority.
“I asked them what is the procedure when the police come to houses with a search warrant. They told me that they are supposed to show you the warrant first and even read it to you. None of that was done.
“This has me very distraught. My whole family is traumatised. This is the first time that I have ever been taken into police custody or accused of any criminal matter . . .
“The police have to do their investigations but it was the way that I was treated. I was not rude to them. I went with them very calmly; I did not resist.”
Her mother was equally incensed.
“I think they are breaking the law because they did not go about it in the right way. I think when they come to people’s house they should approach people in the right manner. When they came to the door they had a right to present the warrant. Something needs doing to stop this nonsense with people getting unfair like that. It needs to be stopped. They need to treat people like human beings.”
When contacted for a response, public relations officer of the Royal Barbados Police Force, Acting Assistant Superintendent David Welch, said that once a report was made to the Police Complaints Committee, the matter would be investigated.