Anthony Ferguson yesterday assumed the leadership of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, marking a new era for the organization at a time when The Bahamas is plagued by a high level of violent crime, and there are widespread demands for answers to the problem.
Ferguson, 57, pledged to build on the foundation that has been set.
He did so in the presence of his family, Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, other high-ranking government officials and dignitaries, members of the judiciary and others gathered to witness the handover at Police Headquarters on East Street.
The new commissioner did not use the occasion to highlight any plans he has to fight crime in The Bahamas, but said he never imagined that he would rise to the top of the police force and pledged to do his best.
Ferguson received his instruments of appointment from Dame Marguerite.
“Today, I stand before you in humility and with a sincere heart of gratitude for the confidence [reposed] in me by the honorable Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, to be the seventh commissioner of police in an independent Bahamas,” said Ferguson, who joined the police force in 1980.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that, coming from very humble beginnings in Mount Thompson, Exuma, I would ascend to the top position in this noble organization.
“Prime minister, thank you and I graciously accept and will do my endeavor best to uphold the mandate of this office.”
In his final address as commissioner of police, Ellison Greenslade, who was appointed commissioner in January 2010, said the force is in good hands with Ferguson.
“As I make my exit, I am satisfied beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are in good hands with Anthony Ferguson, the incoming commissioner,” Greenslade said.
“I have had ample opportunities to observe Deputy Commissioner Ferguson over the course of two years while he served as my deputy at police headquarters.
“I can tell you unreservedly that he added value to my team. He has given me tremendous support and he has never disrespected me or my office.
“He is a decent, well bred, Family Island man from Exuma. I wish you the very best and I offer you my support now and in the future. I know that you will do well.”
Minnis thanked Greenslade for his decades of devotion to his country and the police force.
“I thank him for his various successes as commissioner, including the prevention and detection of crime; community policing and community outreach; increasing professionalism in the force and enhanced use of communications and other technologies,” the prime minister said.
“I am confident that the same patriotic spirit he brought to the force, he will now bring as our high commissioner to Great Britain, and as ambassador to a number of other countries.”
While congratulating the new commissioner, the prime minister noted that there is an expectation that his service will be marked by the high ideals of courage, integrity and loyalty.
“Your guiding star must be the rule of law and fairness,” Minnis said. “You must demonstrate toughness and compassion.”
The new commissioner has wide-ranging experience on the force.
Ferguson has an associate of arts degree in law and criminal justice from The Bahamas Baptist Community College, and a post graduate certificate in criminal justice and police management from the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom.
He has served in numerous divisions, including the Family Island Division and the Central and Southern divisions in New Providence.
He was head of the Homicide Squad of the Central Detective Unit and commander of the Drug Enforcement Unit.
The prime minister said the crime problem must be tackled through the judiciary, through social intervention and development efforts, through the corrections department and through the police force.
“We must use every measure possible to reduce crime and to restore a more peaceful way of life for our people.”
Minnis said the great challenge of criminal violence is rooted in a sad and sordid history.
“In the 1970s and 80s, The Bahamas became ‘a nation for sale’,” he said.
“We were a narco-state. Foreign drug dealers set up bases in our islands. The government of the day turned a blind eye to the merchants of drugs and death.
“Our social order, and the minds and bodies of our sons and daughters, were being poisoned by illicit drugs and the wanton disregard for human life and life-affirming values.”
Minnis repeated a portion of his first national address in which he addressed the issue of corruption.
“The crime problem we face today was set in motion by the sins of the past. Leaders chose corruption and fast money over the best interests of our people,” he said.
“We must restore the productive values of Bahamian culture. I intend to lead that fight by ensuring there is honesty in government; that there is fairness in contracting and that the corrupt are no longer able to use power to protect themselves from the law.
“I do not accept that any group of Bahamians should have special protection. We are a nation of laws. All Bahamians should follow those laws or face the consequences of transgression.
“We must fight crime and corruption at every level. This includes criminal violence, and those who would abuse their high office and engage in corrupt practices.
“Our fight against crime and corruption must be comprehensive and vigorous.”
The prime minister again outlined his government’s commitment to tackling crime, noting that it is committed to developing a no tolerance attitude for all crimes, inclusive of minor infractions of the law and develop a modern, efficient crime fighting machine properly manned, trained and equipped to prevent crime where possible, detect crime when it occurs, and bring those responsible to account before the courts.
Ferguson assumes the leadership of the police force with widespread fears about crime.
During Greenslade’s leadership of the force, serious crimes, especially murder, rose dramatically.
In 2010, there were 94 murders, a record at the time. In 2011, the country exceeded 100 murders for the first time, ultimately hitting 127 murders.
There were 111 murders in 2012; 119 in 2013; 122 in 2014 and a record 146 in 2015.
The murder count for 2017 so far is 117.