The Oscar and Andrianna Bartholomew Police Accountability Act of 2016

Oscar Bartholomew

by Kellon Bubb

The Grenadian diaspora in Europe and North America maintains extremely strong personal and patriotic ties to the homeland, and Grenadians who now call many North American and European enclaves home are always eager to contribute to the enhancement of the quality of life of their families in Grenada, and on a macro level subsidize the wider development of the islands economy through remittances, generous acts of philanthropy, and regular visits to the island at every possible opportunity.

 

Oscar Bartholomew — A Life Brutally Extinguished & A Family Torn Apart

One such member of the Grenadian community in Canada was the late Oscar Bartholomew, a young man from the community of La Tante in the parish of St David. Oscar was the son of humble working class parents, who sacrificed everything to ensure he led a decent quality of life by Grenadian standards at home.

Oscar subsequently joined many in his community, and emigrated to Canada in search for better economic opportunities in his late twenties. Bartholomew fast became a very important source of economic support for his family back in Grenada, and like most of his contemporaries in Toronto, paid regular visits to Grenada during festive holiday periods such as Carnival and Christmas.

December 2011 should have been yet another routine visit for Oscar, his wife and other friends, but little did he know that a routine trip from Canada would be a final farewell to his adopted homeland, and that his life would end tragically at the hands of vicious police thugs in his native land.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016, just 4 years and 2 weeks after Oscar’s untimely demise, Grenada and its compatriots in the diaspora learnt of the tragic news that Oscar’s mother, Andrianna Bartholomew, was found hanging from a tree at the back of her home in La Tante. Words do fail me as I write this piece, as the Bartholomew family tragedy is one of the most egregious acts of police brutality committed against an innocent man, and the tragedy is confounded by the fact that Grenada’s “justice” system failed this family, and shook the confidence that civilians are expected to have in those that are sworn to “protect and serve.”

 

Courtroom Drama

It is very apparent that the defendants (alleged police thugs) in this case are happy with engaging in courtroom semantics to delay the wheels of justice in this matter, and would continue to challenge the State’s case against them by arguing that the manslaughter charges should be vacated, since no coroner’s inquest was held to confirm that Oscar’s death was indeed the result of their zealously violent and irresponsible actions (as if we needed further proof). So while these “police” officers await the final outcome of this case (and collect taxpayer salaries in the interim), and while some anticipate that justice will never be served for Oscar, concerned nationals continue to scratch their heads at the repugnant state of police accountability in Grenada.

 

Police Accountability Reform

The most appropriate honour that the Government and People of Grenada can pay to Oscar and Andrianna Bartholomew, would be the introduction of legislation to the Grenada Parliament in their name, proposing extensive changes to how the police should be policed when they engage in criminal conduct in the workplace.

There’s a strong case to be made for the creation of an independent police investigations bureau to investigate and prosecute crimes committed by members of law enforcement. The notion that police officers should conduct fair and impartial investigations on members of their own ranks, is patently reckless; as such processes are never transparent and does not give the appearance of fairness and accountability.

Grenada is a member of the International Commission on Human rights, and international human rights law requires that police killings are thoroughly investigated, and that the police responsible for unlawful actions are prosecuted and convicted. This is required both to fulfil the State’s obligations to provide accountability in the individual case and justice for the victim and their family, and to fulfil the State’s due diligence obligations to prevent future violations — if violations are left unpunished, a culture of impunity forms, which in turn encourages further violations.

Secondly, the Laws of Grenada must be amended to make changes to the very archaic coroner’s inquest enacted in 1874, (yes, 1874). The coroner’s inquest attempts to always establish the cause of death at a State-owned facility, and a judge and jury can determine at that this preliminary stage, whether to file charges or dismiss a case against a public official who is suspected of causing harm to civilians in their care. The inquest has become a handy tool for the gang of police thugs in this case, and has used it very effectively in their attempt to delay and ultimately deny justice. The Director of Public Prosecutions should not be held hostage by an 1874 law that can now be used in 2015 to delay and deny justice.

 

Vigilance against Police Brutality

The Bartholomew episode isn’t new, as other law enforcement officers who have engaged in similar criminal conduct have never been held accountable for their actions. Some were rewarded with sponsored voyages to new destinations where they’ve now happily settled, and their victims’ families remain scarred and traumatized by the violence committed in the name of the State.

I won’t suggest that police violence and brutality is an omnipresent epidemic in Grenada, but where there is smoke, there is fire. The failure of the “justice” system to appropriately punish crimes committed in the name of the State by rogue police thugs, or our collective failure to advocate for, and implement powerful legislative and constitutional modifications to police protocols and best practices, would signal our surrender to the culture of creeping impunity and corruption that may very well become the norm in these cases.

It would also mean that Oscar and Andrianna Bartholomew’s death would have been in vain. One of my favorite fiction writers, George R R Martin, opined in a recent column the following thought, “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.” May all the victims of police violence find peace, and may the wheels of justice churn in their favour one day soon. Rest in peace Oscar, Andrianna, and all the victims of rogue police murder.

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