Anger at the Straw Market
Straw vendors are a passionate bunch. When they feel wronged, vendors express their anger for all to see.
There was upset at the market Thursday after police allegedly beatEdena Farah,a female tour guide, who was leading a group of tourists around the rear of the market.
The vendors and tourists saidFarahwas pulled from a segway by the hair by police and taken into the small police station next to the Senior Frogs restaurant and beaten.
They said they heard the incident. They said they sawFarahbeing transported to another police station with visible injuries. The vendors were enraged.
WhenFarah emerged publicly from police custody on Friday, she had visible bruises, bite marks and one of her arms was in a cast.
Witnesses told the media that the dispute between the woman and police was over whether or notFarahhad the right to ride on the street or sidewalk. It is unclear if this is true or not. The senior command from the Central Division came to the market to attempt to quiet the crowd. Police had no comment on the incident at the scene.
Assistant Commissioner Hulan Hanna toldThe Nassau Guardianon Friday, however, that the situation involving Farah and police got”out of hand”and police will take”decisive action”regarding the matter.
“This is all unfortunate because this happened in the downtown area where, literally, hundreds of tourists and other persons are present. And if the story as told is what it is, then we as a force need to take corrective action immediately. And rest assured, the Bahamian public has that assurance from the Royal Bahamas Police Force that we will do just that,”he said.
It is accepted by most that Bahamian police officers regularly use force against citizens during the course of their duties. The society, to a certain extent, consents to this behavior because of the high level of violent crime in the country. Many want police to’rough up’the bad men.
If, for example, a thief had robbed a tourist at the market it is likely that the vendors and wood carvers would have helped police beat the thief.
When honest citizens are beaten and mistreated, however, anger results. When it happens in public, riots can occur.
Policymakers have to sit down with the leadership of the Royal Bahamas Police Force and have a serious discussion about the future of the use of force as an investigative tool by officers. Will we forever have a force that just beats and does not investigate?
Investigators need evidence in order to secure convictions in court. Police forces around the world use various forms of coercion force included to obtain this evidence in order to secure convictions.
From conversations with those involved with the criminal justice system, our police officers appear to be slipping into a habit where they just use force as a form of punishment and as a way to project personal power. Concern for the conviction appears to have diminished.
By all anecdotal evidence, the conviction rate in The Bahamas is abysmal as compared to the number of people charged with serious crimes. The government does not provide the conviction rate to the public. It is unclear if one is even tabulated.
One wonders what will come out of Thursday’s incident. Being on the scene we can say without fear of contradiction that tourists and residents who witnessed it were not impressed with police behavior.