Frustrated cop waits for decision on reinstatement

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Justice Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell. –

A police officer is wondering how much longer he will have to wait before he gets word from the Commissioner of Police to go back to work.

In February, a High Court judge ordered the commissioner to reconsider a decision to deem the police constable as having either abandoned his job or resigned, after he tried to resume work after being suspended for seven years.

PC Gopaul Ragoonanan is still waiting. He said he has visited the Police Administration building several times for an update but is yet to receive a response.

His attorneys have also written to the commissioner for an update on his possible reinstatement, now that the commissioner has called out police from vacation leave to assist in a new crime initiative.

Newsday’s questions, sent by e-mail to two senior communications officers in the police communications department, to the commissioner’s office have also not been answered.

Ragoonanan is now wondering if he has to file contempt proceedings against the commissioner to determine if the court’s order has been complied with.

In her ruling, Justice Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell quashed the CoP’s decision to deem Ragoonanan as either having abandoned or resigned from his job in 2018.

The court declared the decision was “unfairly made, in breach of the principles of natural justice, unjustified and unreasonable,” having failed to take into account relevant circumstances and Ragoonanan’s representations.

Ragoonanan was suspended in 2009 after being charged with assault. The case was dropped in July 2013, but his suspension was not lifted until August 2016.

He did not immediately resume work, as he was then directed to go on two years’ outstanding leave.

On trying to return to work in 2018, he encountered delays in getting the requirements for his job, in particular his kit, which included a uniform, boots, bulletproof vest, shoulder titles and identification card.

Eventually, he stopped going to work while waiting for the relevant departments to resolve the kit issue.

Ragoonanan’s claim included statements that he repeatedly wrote to the relevant departments and also communicated this to former commissioner Gary Griffith. Copies of his messages to Griffith were submitted as evidence.

The judgment said despite claims that he was told he could return to work in plain clothes, not having received his kit, ID or firearms training, Ragoonanan decided to stop reporting for duty at the Santa Cruz police station on October 18, 2019, which was the date the police deemed he abandoned the job, effectively ending his career.

Ragoonanan filed a judicial review claim and Donaldson-Honeywell granted him leave last October. In her decision, the judge said Ragoonanan had proven his case as to the irrationality and unreasonableness of the commissioner’s decision to treat him as having resigned or abandoned his job.

She said his sole ill-advised action may have been his decision to stop reporting for work without protecting himself by explaining his reasons to the commissioner.

However, she said it was clear that he believed the commissioner knew of the reason for his absence, which was “tacitly condoned.”

Donaldson-Honeywell said it was not credible that the commissioner believed Ragoonanan had abandoned the job.

Ragoonanan is represented by attorneys Janet Peters and Rajiv Rickhi.