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2006-05-24 02:07:11

Police Protest Against AG

In what they said was an act intended to show that they would not stand for any abuse of the judicial system, more than 100 police officers turned out in Bank Lane yesterday.

In what they said was an act intended to show that they would not stand for any abuse of the judicial system, more than 100 police officers turned out in Bank Lane yesterday, demanding that authorities reverse a decision to forward a police shooting case to the Magistrate's court.

The officers were led by Inspector Bradley Sands, executive chairman of the Police Staff Association, who accused the attorney general of unjust interference in the particular matter.

The officers' protest was timed to coincide with the expected appearance in the Magistrate's court of Constable Nathaniel Charlow, who was reportedly scheduled to be charged with manslaughter.

The matter stems from the shooting of Deron Bethel, 20, in Pinewood Gardens.

Bethel was shot to death under unclear circumstances on Monday, March 27. Witnesses say the shooter, who was dressed in plainclothes and riding in an unmarked car, only identified himself as a police officer after having allegedly shot Bethel.

Since the shooting, Diana Bethel, the young man's mother, has called for justice and answers.

An autopsy revealed that while initial reports suggested only a single shot was fired, Bethel was shot three times, each one potentially fatal.

A coroner's inquest into the death was expected to begin on Monday, but it soon emerged that the Attorney General's office had forwarded the matter to the Magistrate's court.

Mr. Charlow's attorney, Desmond Bannister, said the shooting occurred while police were on the job investigating a complaint by a young woman who had reported that she had had a gun held to her.

Mr. Bannister said he had found out that the Attorney General's office sent the matter to the Magistrate's court for Mr. Charlow to be charged with manslaughter.

The officer remains on the job at the Criminal Detective Unit.

"He was not charged due to the expression of solidarity," Mr. Bannister said.

The attorney accused the attorney general, who is also the member of parliament for Pinewood, of responding to constituent concerns.

"Constituent concerns ought not come into play," Mr. Bannister said. "The charges were not brought. We hope common sense will prevail."

If Mr. Charlow is charged with manslaughter before a determination from the coroner's court, he said, "It would be a very unfortunate day in the Bahamas."

Inspector Sands, meanwhile, told reporters, "I am getting the brothers to understand that there comes a point in the Royal Bahamas Police Force when we need to close ranks and we're closing ranks at this particular point."

He added, "Criminals are given due process when they are involved in shootings and so forth, or any offence that they are charged with. Due process in this matter is for this matter to go before the coroner's court and the [coroner] to make a recommendation based on what the jury says."

It is after this process that the attorney general is at liberty to proceed with the matter, the inspector said.

"It is just wrong for the attorney general to want to just use what I refer to as veto power and just proceed to the Magistrate's court with this charge."

He said the officers' presence was intended to show officer Charlow, "My brother, we've got your back."

"We received some advice that the matter has been put off, stand down were the words that were used," Inspector Sands said. "So, we don't know how they are going to come back with the matter, but seriously, they need to be careful in how they proceed in this matter because it could have a ripple effect in the Royal Bahamas Police Force."

He suggested that if the matter is not dealt with in the right way, many officers would be killed before they act.

Inspector Sands said some police officers would be concerned that there would be political interference if they carry out their duties in the constituencies of influential members of parliament.

The attorney general said last evening that she would release a statement today.

Shortly after the shooting, she voted not to allow a cover-up of the incident.

"I want the people to be assured of swift justice," she said at the time. "The [question of a] cover-up came from my own community; people are very, very concerned about shooting incidents, especially when they involve the police…and we will be sure that they are all, every single one of them, thoroughly investigated."

By: Stephen Gay, The Bahama Journal

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