Police’s 12-hour shift ‘taking toll on families’
Annette Rolle, a police officer for 23 years and a single mother of three, said she is tired and the 12-hour shift system that officers have been working under since September 6 must come to an end.
“Really, I want it to stop,” said Rolle, whose name has been changed because she did not want her identity disclosed.
“I really want the 12-hour shift to stop because even if we get compensated it still does not [address] the fact that I’m away from my children and away from my home.
“As far as time back is concerned, it’s not going to fix what has already been destroyed.
“I just want the shift to stop. I want it to stop because I don’t think they can pay us for what we would have done already anyway.”
Police have been working 12-hour shifts since early September as part of the government’s new crime-fighting strategy. Rolle, like other officers, works from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. or 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., five days a week.
She said a doctor gave her two weeks off from work yesterday.
“This would have been my first sick report since the 12-hour shift started,” she told The Nassau Guardian.
“I was trying to push it, but I can’t do it. I’m exhausted.”
It was sentiment shared by several officers who spoke with The Guardian yesterday.
Officers with young children said they cannot continue to be absent from home.
“I have been putting country before self, but I was also putting it before my children,” a mother of two said.
The officer did not wish to give her name because of fears of the possible consequences of speaking to the media.
When contacted for comment yesterday, Assistant Commissioner of Police Leon Bethell said he has not heard any complaints from officers that they are tired.
He said the only feedback he has gotten is from the public, thanking him for the increased presence of officers in the community.
“No commander has presented it to me to say that the troops are tired,” Bethell said.
“I am not tired because when my commissioner calls upon me to go the extra mile, I feel so honored to do that.
“I feel honored that I have been asked to provide a service.”
But Rolle said the worst part of the shift is the time she has lost with her children.
“I have three kids. Two reside with me in New Providence; the other one is on the Family Island,” she said.
“My five-year-old, who doesn’t understand fully, is saying to me, ‘mommy can I go with you to work so I can hit the person who has you working 12-hours?’
“Coming from my five-year-old, that’s kind of scary.”
Rolle said she has had to hire a babysitter to watch her children, something she barely has the money to afford.
Marcus Brown, an officer for almost 24 years, said he doesn’t know how much longer he can continue working the extra hours.
Brown said he has two sons, a 22-year-old and a three-year-old, and a pregnant wife due to give birth next month.
“The only thing I can do when I get home is just look at him,” he said, referring to his three-year-old.
“That’s the only thing I can do, or touch him whilst he’s sleeping.
“When I do get to see him, all I can do is look. I don’t spend time with him.”
Brown, whose name has also been changed because he did not want his identity disclosed, said he plans to be with his wife when she gives brith.
“She is having a C-section,” he said. “I will be there, one way or the other.”
Brown said he is not looking for time back, but compensation.
Asked if the 12-hours have yielded positive results, he said: “Yeah, I’ve seen some changes.
“I know we, the mobile division, recovered half of the guns that were recovered since September.
“I think I’ve seen some good results.
“But the problem is the toll that the hours are taking on police officers. That’s the problem right there.”
While government and law enforcement officials are careful not to claim an early victory against crime, they have pointed to a reduction in the level of violent crimes since the crime plan was announced in September.
Prior to September 6, police reported 12 murders in a 13-day period.
Since that time, 10 murders have been reported up to yesterday.
Bethell said he doesn’t understand the concerns expressed by some of the officers.
“If I am your police and you ask me to provide a little more because Bahamians are concerned and I can’t do that you need to question me,” he said.
“A thank you note is what keeps me motivated. If we look for financial reward for the services that we do, this country would be in a serious state.
“You need to expect nothing less than the best from these officers.
He added: “If Leon Bethell tells you that he is tired, you need to tell him to find another job because I am here to serve the public and my service to the public is unconditional.”
Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade has said that officers could remain on 12-hour shifts for another year or perhaps even two years, depending on the need.
Police Staff Association (PSA) Executive Chairman Inspector Dwight Smith said the PSA will not back down from its threat to take legal action over the compensation issue.
Smith said last Wednesday the association is seeking legal advice on what its next move is concerning the 12-hour shift and getting compensation for officers.