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Bahamas Police in Hot Seat

Both the Bahamas’ chief prosecutor and the deputy Prime Minister have told top police officers that it is time to clean up their corrupt, ineffective, incompetent police force.

Crime is out-of-control in The Bahamas.  A record number of homicides were reported last year and there have already been three murders in the new year.

On Friday, Vinette Graham-Allen, the controversial Director of Public Prosecutions reportedly told police detectives that they must “raise the bar” in criminal investigations.

Her mandate is to reduce the backlog of criminal cases and to improve the low conviction rates.

The Nassau Guardian recently reported that numerous murder suspects are granted bail due to weak evidence and incompetent prosecution by the police.

Ms Graham-Allen is now requesting that senior lawyers in the Office of the Attorney General first review case files to determine if there is enough evidence to prosecute.

This responsibility used to lie with Superintendent Leon Bethell, the commanding officer of the Central Detective Unit.   Not any more.

Police have, in the past, placed blame for poor conviction rates on the courts.  However, the courts have routinely criticized police investigative techniques.

Meanwhile, The Bahamian public understands the problem to be with both the police and the courts.

Corrupt and/or incompetent judges are only part of the problem.  Corrupt and/or incompetent police officers are the other part of the equation.

On too many occasions, judges have to grant bail to dangerous criminals, or release them, due to insufficient prosecution.

And, on too many occasions, police are frustrated when a corrupt or incompetent judge grants bail to a murder suspect, or sotherwise kews the case, even when the proscution does have enough evidence to convict.

And, of course, corrupt lawyers are a problem for everybody.

In too many cases, the prosecution is stifled because witnesses do not show up.  They have either been threatened by relatives of the person on trial or paid to “disappear” by corrupt defence lawyers.

Ms Graham-Allen is not the only high-level government official critical of the police and the justice system.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Brent Symonette went on record to state that, “there has been an unacceptable level of complaints coming from the public regarding the level of services they receive from the police, given the technology and resources that the government has invested in the police force.”

Speaking at the police force’s annual church service, the DPM said he would insist on greater accountability on the part of the police force.  We shall see.

Symonette’s comment  follows reports last week that a rogue police officer beat a suspect for no apparent reason, in full view of hundreds of tourists and locals, at the downtown straw market.  Police say the incident is “under investigation”, which usually means it will go nowhere.

Hardly a day goes by that a suspect is not accusing the police of beating them while in custody.  While many of those claims are bogus, there are far too many instances of police brutality in The Bahamas and the police force seems incapable of policing itself.  Yet, they refuse to allow an independent body to invesitgate complaints against the police.

Mr Symonette parroted the oft-repeated statement that no one is “above the law.”   Bahamians would like to see that become more than a slogan.

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