Monitoring and evaluation officer at the Division of Education, Youth Affairs and Sport (DEYAS), Carla Batson-Orr, is suing the division, after claiming she was forced to undergo a strip search by the police at an office of the division in Tobago, on Monday.
Her private parts were also searched by two female police officers. The police were searching for a flash drive that went missing last Thursday, Batson-Orr claims.
When she got to work Batson-Orr was approached by the human resource co-ordinator of the Division of Education, Ginelle Williams, who told her a flash drive was missing.
Her lawyers, Martin George and Company, told the Express Batson-Orr was also immediately summoned to the office of DEYAS administrator, Allison Lawrence.
“Ms Lawrence began to immediately question our client about the missing flash drive. Our client gave the administrator the same information she gave human resource co-ordinator Ginelle Williams. At that point Ms Williams told the administrator she was going to the police,” George said.
George said sometime around 3.20 p.m. his client observed Williams in the building with two female police officers. They headed straight to the administrator’s office.
“Ten minutes thereafter, in full view of all her colleagues and co-workers, the two officers came out to our client’s desk, asked her name and informed her that they received a report of a missing flash drive and that they will have to question her and conduct a search of her work area.
“Our client indicated that she knew nothing of any missing flash drive and that she had already told this to both Ms Lawrence and Ms Williams.
“The officers then pointed Ms Batson-Orr to an office where they arrested her. In that office our client was again questioned about the flash drive.
“Without having any search warrant, one of the female officers, a corporal by rank, conducted an illegal search of our client’s desk, cabinet and her personal possessions including her handbag. They scattered the contents across her desk strewing all her personal feminine items for all in the office to see,” George said.
George said all this illegal action was facilitated and obviously sanctioned by the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).
Batson was then told to remove her clothing to be further searched by officers. “Our client was told she had had to strip off her clothes for a full body search to be conducted.
“Batson was bawling and blubbering loudly and crying and protesting this invasion of her privacy and this utter indignity and humiliation to her person, but with the clear and direct encouragement of the administrator and human resource co-ordinator, they all insisted that our client must strip off all her clothes right there in this office in her workplace and the police officers insisted with threats, that she must take off her clothes.
“Questioning why this had to be done, the police officers laughed and told our client ‘this is what happens with a search’,” George said.
She was also told if she did not comply she would be charged with obstructing police officers in their duties. She was made to squat three times and a search of her private parts was subsequently conducted, George said.
George wants to know from THA Chief Secretary Orville London if this is the standard operating policy for the THA when dealing with its employees.
Batson-Orr, he said, has been a nervous wreck since this incident and has been having nightmares about it. She is now on sick leave.
Education Secretary Gary Melville said while investigations surrounding matters differ case by case, it is up to the administrator to make a decision on the way forward and whether there is sufficient information for the police to be called.
Assistant Commissioner of Police, Tobago, Heflin George said he was not aware of the incident and he was shocked. ACP George wondered whether there was sufficient evidence to warrant such a search.
George has given the THA four days to offer a proposal for settlement or face court action. The matter will also be referred to the Police Complaints Authority, he said.