‘We’re really up in arms’
Health inspector pans pranksters’ rationale for impersonating officials
Asha Wilks/Gleaner Writer
CHIEF PUBLIC Health Inspector Grayson Hutchinson has rejected the justification of pranksters who have been impersonating health inspectors at locations across the island, including a brazen showing at the recent Crab Circle reopening ceremony.
The pranksters, who have uploaded videos of their ‘inspections’ and other activities to social media, have dubbed their actions a social experiment, saying it was aimed at boosting public awareness of the ease at which public officials can be impersonated.
But noting that public health inspectors across the island were offended and enraged by the actions of the pranksters, Hutchinson described their justification as “ridiculous”.
“The fact that a uniform is easy to acquire doesn’t mean that one [should] impersonate an officer or officers from different professions just to prove a point … ,” he told The Gleaner. “And [the argument] that the uniform should be changed or should be more difficult to get, ... I don’t accept that as justification in any way, shape or form for what has been done.”
ACTIONS CAME ‘FROM THE HEART’
One of the men, Kazrae Gray – who assumed the moniker ‘Randy Bucktoe’ during his impersonations as a public health inspector – maintained yesterday that their actions were not done with any ill intent.
He acknowledged that the responses from the public to the “social experiment” have been mixed, but said their actions came “from the heart”.
He rubbished claims that the impersonation was a means of building his social media presence.
“It’s not about to get all positive feedback. It’s just about to reach out to couple people and to spread awareness,” he said, cautioning business operators to ensure to do their proper checks when approached by people claiming to be officials.
Gray said that the idea came after some of his friends were allegedly tricked by individuals posing as government officials.
“You have people weh dress up like police and go inna dem house and rob them, ... stop people [in cars] on the highway, [and] you have people dress up as JPS (Jamaica Public Service workers) and stuff like that,” he said, noting that some impersonations could have serious implications.
The Trelawny native said that he frequently witnessed how food operators complied with the instructions of people dressed in the official uniform of health inspectors – a plain beige shirt or blouse and brown trousers or skirt.
He said that the food vendors seemingly never requested to see identification from these individuals and so it was only fitting to choose this profession for his gimmick.
“You can go anywhere go buy the uniform. There’s no logo, there’s nothing on it ... . They need to have something official on their shirt so that they can easily be identified by people,” he suggested in a
But Hutchinson, who did not dismiss the practicality of the suggestion, argued that there were other
organisations who wore the same colour uniform without logos.
He continued that Gray’s motive was much more than he has led on and that the group’s actions could not just be considered a prank as Gray has spread information to several food handling establishments contrary to what is to be practised.
“From what I have heard, a lot of persons have said that they are so shocked. They were wondering which public health inspector is this who is gloating, who is unable to deliver and to do justice to the English language,” Hutchinson stated, adding that the remarks Gray made at the Crab Circle reopening were not in line with proper ethics and environmental health practices and standards.
Gray, who was not on the programme of events, which was moderated by Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation CEO Robert Hill, was invited to the podium by Hill to offer brief remarks on behalf of the public health department.
In a YouTube video which documented the various unauthorised inspections, Gray and his accomplices can be seen speaking with crab vendor Nadine Francis about items which the Public Health Department would be equipping vendors with, including hairnets, buckets for vendors to relieve themselves, and gloves.
Gray confirmed that he did not receive any authorisation to carry out his experiment and told The Gleaner that he was not aware that the actions were illegal, attracting a penalty of $500,000 or six months’ imprisonment on conviction.
He told The Gleaner that his team had their lawyer on standby and that he had not yet been contacted by the police.
Gray said that although vendors suspected that they were official inspectors, they were later informed of the prank after the cameras had stopped rolling. He added that they eventually returned to pay for food received from the vendors.
“Mi neva know say Jamaica would a tek it this serious ... . I videoed everything just to show the people that I don’t have any form of ill intentions. If I had ill intentions, you know say mi woulda just go inna the people dem place and stick them up and a rob the people dem,” he said, adding that the identification which he displayed to persons was fake and made out of paper with an expiration date of 2090.
He revealed that he and his accomplices visited a number of restaurants, including Island Grill, Ultimate Jerk Centre and Margaritaville, which are all locations in St Ann. At least one Trelawny vendor was also seen in one of the videos.
Despite the reactions, Gray said he has no regrets over his actions because he was confident that his experiment had helped “at least a couple people”.
He confessed, however, that perhaps the team had not properly thought out their approach, but they did not intend to make a mockery of the health department.
“I just don’t want them to take any form of offence to it. It’s just a social experiment,” he said.
But Hutchinson said that the inspectors are “irate”, “furious,” and “really up in arms” over the matter.
The chief public health inspector revealed that this was not the first time where pranksters had impersonated an inspector, but that this is the only case that has gained significant public attention.
He said that ultimately, the operations of the team would be impacted by the prank, where, to some extent, the public’s trust and confidence in the inspectorate would be reduced.
In April 2017, Gray was among eight Jamaicans who were extradited to face charges in the United States for being involved in a multimillion-dollar lottery scam that defrauded some 90 elderly Americans out of more than US$5.7 million.
On Tuesday, he told The Gleaner that he did not wish to speak about his past, declining to state whether he was ever sentenced.
“I’m a changed man now ... . You know, a lot of great people, sometimes we make mistakes in life, and we pay the consequence, and we move forward with positive vibration,” he said, adding that he and his team have helped a lot of people.
And as Gray plans to release more footage, Hutchinson warned: “I think it would be in Mr Gray’s best interest to desist from doing what he’s doing because he will just make the situation worse for himself and his co-conspirators.”