by Craig Butler
With the rate of crime being what it is, we the people are looking to the police for answers. We need them to reassure us that all is going to be well. We need them to tell us that they have a handle on the situation.
The important question is: can the police provide these things? Unfortunately, I must say 'no'.
The prime minister has said that he decided to send two of our senior police officers (Assistant Commissioners Greenslade and Dames) to Canada for advanced training.
I like the prime minister as he has always struck me as someone who has the best for the country in mind. However, with the greatest respect, let there be no more talk about political interference in the police as both PLP and FNM governments have shown that they have an inability to keep their hands off.
The word amongst the police rank and file is that Senior Assistant Commissioner Greenslade and Commissioner Ferguson can’t get along, with some going so far as to say they despise each other.
Therefore, as many of them feel that Ferguson was only put in place for a limited period, it was necessary to get rid of Greenslade during this time. The reason for ACP Marvin Dames going as well was to divert attention from the real reason for sending Greenslade. It should be noted that Dames had only returned to active duty recently after completing a year-long course at Yale University.
I like the idea of giving our officers the training they need, but I would add that it is not necessarily those at the top who need to be put on sabbatical but rather the rank and file.
As an attorney I am sorry to say that often the reason why the prosecution loses so many cases is two-fold, because of shoddy police work and because of a failure to prosecute due to insufficient evidence.
The police do the best job they can with the training and resources they have, but in many instances that job is shoddy. This is more an indictment of the hierarchy of the force who have failed to pressure the politicians for sufficient resources to train the lower ranks.
One example is with the collection of physical evidence. Take the recent high-profile murder of Harl Taylor - that scene should have been immediately closed to preserve any evidence that may have existed. However, it was evident from the press coverage that many people apparently had access to the house, which is something that should have never happened. Eve former prime minister Perry Christie visited the house. That is just one example of an elementary mistake.
Other common mistakes involve the collection of samples which may or may not contain DNA. There have been far too many cases where on cross-examination it was ascertained that the officers used the same pair of gloves the whole time, failed to use gloves at all, or put several specimens in the same evidence bag. This can lead to contamination and therefore render the exercise questionable. Our standard of proof is "beyond a reasonable doubt" and mistakes such as this definitely can raise doubts.
And why is it that we can’t afford to have our own DNA lab in the Bahamas? Even Jamaica, a country that many of us look down on, has its own DNA facility.
It is also said that with the crime rate being what it is, and the pressure being applied to the force from both the public and the political directorate, some members of the force are resorting to short-cuts such as beating confessions out of suspects. This is not acceptable in 2007 for a professional organization.
The Force needs to be improved in many respects, so it is time for politicians to stop playing politics and allocate sufficient resources to this important institution which is there to protect and serve all of us. Let's get serious about the crime situation and do what is best for the country, not for our friends.
I went to Freeport two weeks ago today on a 7am flight. I was attending an arraignment in relation to the murder of Gifford Martin. Michael Kemp attended the same arraignment, but came on a later flight. What he told me he witnessed was plain disgraceful.
Justice Vera Watkins was on the same flight as he was and was treated in a disrespectful manner by the airport security staff as she was made to remove her shoes. Now what is so appalling about this was that on this very day two cabinet ministers (Dr. Hubert Minnis and Kenneth Russell) were also traveling to a family island and they were not subjected to the same ignominy, nor were any of their companions.
The position of justice of the Supreme Court is supposed to carry the same privileges as that of a minister of government, so such treatment of the judiciary should be addressed immediately.
If that were not bad enough, Magistrate Susan Sylvester was also traveling on the same day to conduct circuit in one of the islands, but because she had her staff and a police officer with her she did not have to endure what Justice Watkins did.
I am not saying that there is a problem with having someone take off their shoes, as most of us have to go through this procedure. However, we have also chosen to grant a waiver to those who we have placed in important positions.
In fairness to Justice Watkins, it has to be said that she didn’t complain but simply complied with the request. I am happy that she was able to show such equanimity in a situation where she would have been justified in acting otherwise.