The use of deadly force and the crime fight
The political parties are piecing together crime platforms for the election campaign, which started when Hubert Ingraham announced on November 7 that he would seek a fourth term as prime minister. We hope they find advisors who can help them. The issue of crime will dominate public discourse until Bahamians vote for a new government. The public will need to hear solutions from both major parties, not just idle talk.
We advocate tough responses to those seeking to disturb the peace.
The Bahamas has drifted too far over the past three decades from being a peaceful set of islands to being islands racked with fear and anxiety. We will set a third homicide record in four years this year. And with no measures in place yet to stop the trend, it is likely there will be a fourth homicide record in five years come the end of 2011.
A part of the crime fight is improving the quality of police investigations, case management by prosecutors and increasing the number of criminal courts to hear cases. The government is working on all these measures.
Another equally significant part of the crime fight is the war on the streets.
Hardened hit men, armed robbers, rapists and armed home invaders exist in The Bahamas. They have destroyed the lives of so many Bahamians over the past few years. These crimes have led to much fear and anger. Honest Bahamians want someone, or some group, to push back in their defense.
Walden Mitchell, on Monday night, shot a police officer; several days before he had shot at and assaulted others. In an operation then led by the police to capture and arrest Walden Mitchell the police, in the course of their duty, shot and killed Walden Mitchell.
He reportedly sent a message to police that he was armed and ready.
In an editorial earlier this week we commended the police for doing their job. In doing their job Walden Mitchell was shot. We called on the police to just do their job. If as a consequence a criminal is shot, so be it. Some have misunderstood our position in this regard and we apologize for any misunderstanding. We are not calling for extra-judicial killings.
Section 103 of the Penal Code allows for the use of deadly force by citizens or law enforcement officers in the capture and detention of someone who has committed a felony.
Section 107 of the Penal Code authorizes the use of deadly force for the protection of self and others in connection with the following crimes: Treason, piracy, murder, manslaughter except manslaughter by negligence, robbery, burglary, housebreaking, arson of a dwelling house or vessel, rape, forcible unnatural crime and dangerous or grievous harm.
When criminals are on the streets of our islands armed with weapons with the intent to harm citizens, police have a legal responsibility to intervene. In this intervention the law allows officers to use deadly force. No right-thinking citizen should have a problem with this. It is the law.
When police use legally appropriate force against criminals, society usually applauds their effort. Complaints usually only arise when police are unnecessarily and inappropriately heavy-handed in carrying out their mandate Police must protect citizens against those disturbing the peace.
The proper use of force by police has an effect. It lets criminals know that there is an immediate consequence to harming citizens. It lets criminals know that if you are riding around our neighborhoods armed and searching for an innocent mother to rob, or a hardworking father to molest, police are not afraid to apply the law to you.
The breakdown of the criminal justice system has had consequences in The Bahamas. Many fear the law less than they used to. The ongoing reforms hopefully will speed up the prosecution process so that once placed in the system, justice can be meted out in a timely fashion.
We just ask that criminals be found and dealt with appropriately according to due legal process.
The Bahamas is at a crossroad. Some do not seem to realize this. Either we return to being an orderly society or we become like some other societies and countries that have already gone too far.