REV KEITH RUSSELL WRITES ON POLICE KILLINGS

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On policing

I don’t believe the police’s version—on hardly anything. I certainly don’t believe them on the killing of those three young men on Cowpen Road, on Saturday June 13, 2020.

 Did we hear any compassion from any of the police spokespersons so far? Is there any hint of remorse or empathy in their narrative that in the course of executing their duties unfortunately three young men lost their lives? Instead, what we heard is that the police were ‘ambushed’. Three young men are sitting in a car, supposedly with a pistol. Three officers are outside with firearms approaching. Ambush eh? The only question here is who was doing the ambushing?

 What we have heard, further, is that the young men were known to the police. Please check the books; is being known to the police a crime in this country? We have heard that these young men were about to make some mischief at a nearby funeral service. Are the police mind readers now; can they kill you for something that they think you are about to do? We have heard that all these young men have had run-ins with police or have had criminal records. Now I am not the sharpest tool in the shed, but it appears to me that the police are trying to make the case that these young men deserved to die. And that their deaths should not matter to civil society. 

I am outraged. What is more, I am incensed by the swiftness of the defaming narrative advanced by Royal Bahamas Police Force; and furious over the comments of this new, politically appointed Commissioner of Police, Mr. Paul Rolle. In this climate when police departments around the world are suspect and particularly in America where they are being defunded and dismantled, Mr. Rolle is talking tough and crazy. “If persons want to engage the members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force they need to be prepared to meet their maker”. This is insane utterance; and we should call it what it is.

Contrary to the foolish talk of successive police commissioners in recent times, there is no war happening on our streets. The persons who are hell bent on committing serious crimes in our nation are in the small minority. And we don’t want the police taking the attitude that it is okay to kill them. They are still our sons, no matter how much police, and some other citizens, may think that their lives don’t matter. Nor do we want our sons killing police; but police are the ones, supposedly, with the training to de-escalate difficult circumstances. We expect them to do better!

 However, in the event that something goes sideways and the police have no choice except killing our sons, we don’t want the first words out of the Commissioner’s mouth to be some insensitive nonsense about what awful persons they were. Nor do we want to hear how you are always in fear for your life as an excuse as to why you are killing our sons; or to hear how dangerous your job is. That comes with the territory. If that is too much for you to bear then find another job. We want police officers and our sons to come home alive. Mr. Rolle should pay attention to a statement made by President Obama “police should see themselves as guardians and not warriors”. 

In addition, Mr. Rolle should be reminded that the credibility of the RBPF is not particularly high at this moment in our history. We still, after two years, have not gotten that elusive coroner’s report on the police killing of Deangelo Evans in Masons Addition. And few, if any, believe the RBPF’s bogus story about the disappearance of Marvin Pratt while in police custody. Of course, how can we forget the upstanding officers who manipulated the call logs in Frank Smith’s high profile case; or that highly ethical police who edited the witness’ statement in the similarly visible Shane Gibson’s case, who, inexplicably, gets a promotion for her valiant deed; and this past week a man who police shot in the back and leg thirteen years ago just got a judgment in his favour. 13 years! Justice too long delayed is justice denied.

I looked it up. The minimum requirement for a person to enter the RBPF is 5 BJCs. I don’t know how we sleep at night. I am certain that most officers are more qualified than that; and I commend those officers who continue to qualify themselves and who see and respect the humanity of citizens. But, still, as a nation, do we really want to be putting guns in the hands of persons with 5 BJCs? And do we really expect them to have the best judgment in difficult situations? There is an adage that you get what you paid for. If we in the Bahamas want better policing, we better start raising the standards. We better start demanding more. It is absolutely clear, by now, that it is time for police reform in the Bahamas, too.

I write; you decide