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Dames: No disrespect intended with raid

Marvin Dames.

The aim of a recent raid on the prison was not to show up or disrespect prison officers, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames assured yesterday.

Dames was responding to comments made by Ryan Wilson, president of the Bahamas Correctional Officers Staff Association, who claimed that prison officers were disrespected in the process.

In a statement on Thursday, Wilson said the overnight operation at the prison involving officers of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the Royal Bahamas Police Force was an insult to prison officers.

Speaking to The Nassau Guardian, Dames said, “These are exercises that have been going on for a while.

“The op exercises are carried out, certainly with all of the agencies in mind and sometimes operations are carried out within respective agencies, where the rank and file is not fully aware.

“It doesn’t mean that the whole agency is not aware, and this is how law enforcement works. Law enforcement works always on a need-to-know basis. It’s not disrespect. But you saw the results of the exercise; it’s not disrespect, but it’s sometimes depending on the nature of the exercise or the duty, that will depend on how many persons are made abreast prior to and how many persons are not.

“But you can see obviously from the press conference afterwards, it was reflective of all of the agencies”

Dames insisted that the operation was conducted in a way to ensure effectiveness.

“When you are in law enforcement, in particular when you are carrying out an exercise, it’s not that you are disrespecting a group of persons, but you want to make certain that the exercise is carried out in an effective manner,” he said.

The operation, code-named S.I.P. (suppressing incarcerated prisoners), involved more than 200 law enforcement officers sweeping the prison from 10 p.m. on Tuesday to 6 a.m. on Wednesday.

During a press conference at police headquarters on Wednesday morning, Assistant Commissioner of Police Clayton Fernander reported that the search recovered 19 cell phones, 11 cell phone chargers, 42 homemade shanks and a large quantity of suspected marijuana.

Officers also recovered shards of glass concealed in bars of soap, razors and headphones.

Bernardette Thompson-Murray, deputy commissioner of The Bahamas Department of Correctional Services, was also present at the press conference.

The search was mounted after a video went viral of prisoners, reportedly from the Fox Hill facility, breaking down packages of what appears to be marijuana, preparing to roll joints, while music played from a portable speaker in the background.

In his statement, Wilson said that officers from the Department of Correctional Services confiscate contraband on a daily basis and this notion is never publicized.

“It’s an insult to our staff that an outside agency has to enter unfamiliar territory and conduct such business,” he said. “Officers at the prison have agitated for equipment for staff for years and to no avail.”

Wilson said the excuse they are always given is that the prison is financially strapped.

Speaking to this yesterday, Dames said the government is nearing completion of a needs assessment of the prison and hopes to meet those needs in the upcoming fiscal period.

He, however, noted that, “In terms of the execution of duty, it certainly goes beyond just equipment.

“I want to make that clear, and while I respect the views of the president, and he made some very important points, it has to be more than just equipment. And that’s why the manpower issue is so important, because we have to talk about recruitment.

“Who are we recruiting? What’s our standard of recruitment; and, once we get them in there, how do we maintain the highest level of professional standards, in terms of preparing these officers, training them, preparing a pathway to success, that they will be able to maintain the highest level of morale and to mitigate and to minimize the level of corruption, and that’s the key.”

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