Menu Close

Restoring Faith in Our Police Force

The Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) must improve its performance.  The Bahamian people will not settle for subpar service when our lives are at risk.

We commended officers for their bravery and sacrifice, but the police force suffers a perception problem that is reinforced by its failing to fully serve the people of The Bahamas as it should in a few critical areas.

When an individual requires police intervention and calls for help, it is unacceptable to wait two hours for help – that is, if someone even shows up at all.  Residents expect respect and commitment by all officers of the law to provide help in a timely manner when it is needed.

When the victim of a crime or an attempted crime decides that it is not worth the time or effort to get police involved, the country has a serious problem.  This attitude is alarming and draws into question the accuracy of crime statistics; though the public will no longer be privy to statistics of attempted crime.

The RBPF follows the mantra: “Working together for a safer Bahamas”.  In these days of unprecedented crime it is absolutely necessary that the community works with law enforcement officers to counter rising criminal activity.

It is now likely that over the course of a year a resident of New Providence will require police service.  Whether the RBPF is called for a complaint such as loud music or loitering, notice of a house break-in, or attempted assault and armed robbery, it should not matter.  Police have a duty to address residents’ requests.

But police can only attempt to respond if a victim has successfully contacted police.  With the emergency numbers malfunctioning for months, a person in distress can only hope to have the local station number handy.  Searching a telephone book under duress does not bode well for the victim.

The emergency service 919 or 911 hotline must be restored immediately and fixed permanently.  Any further delay and service interruption is simply unacceptable.

Furthermore, while our tourists naively saunter down Bay Street, their safety is ensured by a high concentration of police officers.  Immaculately dressed, tourists find our officers to be worthy of a photo opportunity.  Bahamians elsewhere on the island are entitled to the presence of officers too.

By directing police resources downtown and in schools, The Bahamas is creating false “safe” zones and allowing crime to proliferate elsewhere.  Crime permeates all communities and Bahamians also have the right to feel safe in their own home communities.  How do we expect tourists to feel as safe as at home if we do not?

Under the strain of rising crime and tight budgets, the police force must further commit to greater community integration.  Bahamians understand the current fiscal restraint, but there are some simple measures the police force could adopt to encourage greater police trust.

The RBPF, in addition to maintaining the emergency numbers, can make a pledge to answer all calls and respond in a shorter period of time.  Phone operators should take down phone numbers, if they don’t already do so, and indicate a response time.  Responding officers should be required to make contact if the response time exceeds 15 minutes.

Additionally, the force and the government must follow through on the pledge to increase the number of officers on patrol throughout the day.  The Mobile Division of the force should have the most officers in it of any frontline police division.  It should also have a team of senior officers tasked with ensuring that officers actually patrol when they are on duty.  Some officers spend their shifts at bars and restaurants.  Some spend their time at their boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s residence.  This slackness must be stopped.  Officers are being paid to serve and protect, and more monitoring of patrol officer activity is necessary if we are to address the long standing problem of lack of visible police presence on the streets of New Providence, especially during the overnight hours.

Police must also know the communities they are assigned to.  A person in distress explaining directions in great detail only suffers greater anxiety and most likely a longer wait.  The street naming and number alignment program was supposed to ease this burden and facilitate quicker emergency response.  This process too must be completed and the signs and numbers should be maintained thereafter.

More community foot patrols would also be useful.  Officers would get to know the people in their assigned areas if more of this is done.

These suggestions are nothing new.  Patrolling and police presence are core components of policing.  The government has purchased more vehicles and the commissioner is talking the right talk and moving towards reinstating some of the old techniques we have drifted from in recent years.  But we must move quickly to make our force better.  Bahamians are being harmed in great numbers in an increasingly violent New Providence.

Bahamians should hold confidence in their police force, but the police force has to consistently be there in times of crisis to support us in order to earn this confidence.

The Nassau Guardian
October 2, 2012

Posted in Opinions

Related Posts