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Nottage has conflicting experience on police shootings

Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage said yesterday he has a “schizoid experience” with police involved shootings.

He was responding to a question on whether police involved shootings and alleged incidents of police brutality damage the Royal Bahamas Police Force’s relationship with members of the public.

Nottage, who is also the member of Parliament for Bains Town and Grants Town, admitted in some cases police use excessive force, but he said an examination of those incidents has led him to understand why those incidents sometimes occur.

“There have been some instances of shootings etc. but you must understand that these come about in the normal course of police seeking to do their duty,” said Nottage, during a press conference to announce his ministry’s public crime forum.

“As a representative for example of a constituency, I have this schizoid (inconsistent or contradictory) experience — on the one hand of people complaining about police as they seek to do their duty, but at the same time appealing to the police to protect them when they feel they are offended.

“I think we have to be careful when we talk about these matters and we have to seek to understand [them on a] case-by-case [basis].

“There is no doubt there are cases where perhaps excessive force may be used, but you have to understand the police have a very difficult job to do and sometimes as a result of that their actions are called into question by members of the public.

“My experience is that as you examine these cases on a case-by-case basis you can sometimes see why things occur, and we are always working towards doing everything that we can to minimize this.”

In the last few months, several reported incidents of police involved shootings, some of which have resulted in fatalities, have evoked some public outrage.

On Saturday, police shot and killed a man, whose family identified him as Garred Clarke, 33, at a birthday party on Allan Drive after he reportedly shot at officers.

The family gave a conflicting account of the ordeal, and claimed that police wrongly shot Clarke.

Earlier this month, an altercation between Kelson Antonio Ferguson, 28, a resident of Eleuthera, and a police officer resulted in the man being shot three times in his legs.

The incident was caught on camera and shows the officer trying to restrain Ferguson as he struggled during the arrest.

The ordeal lasted more than eight minutes.

Following that incident, Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade said the people who stood by and watched the altercation should have helped the officer.

Greenslade said he was not taking a position on the incident itself, but “I believe that the matter in question went very, very wrong at the point that there was a physical confrontation”.

Nottage said Greenslade has been resolute in seeking to ensure that officers are made to understand what they can and cannot do, what their responsibility is to members of the public and vice versa.

He assured that his ministry will work diligently to ensure the best possible relationship is developed between the public and the police.

The crime forum will be held at St. Joseph’s Community Centre on Boyd Road at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow.

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