THE COMMISSIONER: YOUR RUDE CHILDREN ARE ON THE FORCE

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( Editor’s Note:  There was a video going around after Junkanoo on New Year’s Day of police beating young men with batons.  It appeared for no reason. The Commissioner of Police was asked about the police brutality on the Force. Here was his remarkable response as told to Rashad Rolle of The Tribune 6 January 2020)

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

POLICE Commissioner Anthony Ferguson connected police brutality to poor parenting and dishonesty from civilians interviewed by investigators conducting background checks into prospective officers.

 “We only could give you what you give us,” he told reporters, “and we only could hope that the little training that we give them, along with what you should’ve done while the person was a child, that they would be able to behave themselves.”

He was responding to a question about police brutality during his annual meet the press event at police headquarters.

The issue resurfaced when viral videos depicted police beating people with batons at the New Year’s Junkanoo Parade, leaving one man bloody and several livid over the physical attacks.  

Commissioner Ferguson suggested he is dissatisfied with the conduct of some officers on the force.

 “(Police brutality is) always a concern for an organisation like the police force because you’re working hand in hand with members of the public and you continue to do training with respect to these, how to behave and all those things,” he said. “I recruited some 200 officers over the last two years.

 “Members of the police investigation team, to employ officers, went to every single location where we had an application from someone who wanted to come in this force. We asked questions of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, cousins, neighbours and persons in the community: ‘is this person fit? Very nice person’ (they responded), ‘you couldn’t find a better person than this individual.’

 “So, we took your word and we hire people, your sons, your daughters, your brothers, your family members and we hired them because they are Bahamians and rightfully we would think that all Bahamians would know how to behave themselves, all, not just police officers. The Bible tells you train up your child in the way they should go. By the time you reach the police force you ain’ no child, hey? When you reach the police force you accountable. So what do you expect to get? You only could get what you give us but a lot of time people believe the police force is responsible for bringing up your children. We will train them in how to maintain law and order, how to behave themselves in carrying out their duty, but training up the child, the mind of the child, that is the responsibility of the parents.”

When asked about timelines for addressing complaints against police, the police chief did not say how long people who make complaints could expect a determination to be made by the RBPF’s Complaints and Corruption Unit. Some residents complain that years go by with no answers or resolution to their concerns. 

According to police statistics for 2019, there were 151 complaints made against police, a 38 percent decrease from 2018; of those matters, 81 have been completed. 

Details on the findings of the investigations were not provided. Unlike his predecessor, Ellison Greenslade, Commissioner Ferguson has not periodically disclosed how many officers have been discharged each year because of misconduct.

 “If you make a report then you have an obligation to go and find out that the man in charge of complaint give you an update on your complaint,” he said. “These things are not done in isolation. If you make a report I expect the man in charge of complaints would sit you down and tell you what is the status of your complaint and if that is not happening then you need to talk to the deputy commissioner, he is responsible for discipline. All of these issues where you see people are complaining about police officers, that is the deputy commissioner’s job and he is quite able to talk to you and give you a status report when you find that it is not forthcoming when it is from the unit. I want to encourage people, don’t just talk things, take action.”