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Police manpower audit reveals huge constable deficit

Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson performs his first inspection of the guard as commissioner back in October 2017. FILE

The Royal Bahamas Police Force’s (RBPF) manpower audit revealed that only about half of the constables needed are present on the force – a critical deficiency in the organization’s recruitment process.

The 2018 audit, tabled by Minister of National Security Marvin Dames in the House of Assembly yesterday, outlines critical challenges in the organization from the resource management practices, flawed and biased promotion exercises, and the senior command of the force being too top-heavy, the latter of which the audit recommends becoming more lean “because there appears to be a lack of conceptual, transformational leadership”.

“The agency had a considerable amount of officers working in non-traditional areas which meant their services were not being fully utilized in core policing functions,” the audit said.

“…Approximately 16 percent of all officers were deployed within the senior ranks which is creating over saturation.”

The audit noted that the influx of strength to the senior ranks of the force does not necessarily meet the required manpower resources and policing functions necessary to operate the force effectively.

“This disproportionate use of human capital means that the RBPF is unable to adequately address some of the most pressing issues facing the organization and, by extension, the country,” it said.

At the time of the report, there were 2,600 officers – 410 senior officers and 2,190 junior officers.

Seventy-four percent of the force was stationed in New Providence. Another 18 percent was stationed on Grand Bahama, and eight percent on the Family Islands.

According to the report, only 34 percent of the force worked as uniformed officers on the front lines. It said the number was a concern because uniformed officers represent the first line of defense.

Family Islands were excluded from this analysis as officers on those islands work based on the needs of those respective islands, the report said.

The audit noted a deficit in certain junior ranks. For instance, there is a nearly 800 officer deficit at the rank of constable. There were 837 constables on the force, compared to the recommended 1,628. The 145 or so officers who retire annually also leave a void that has not been filled, the report said.

“Any deficits within the human capital, at this rank, greatly impact the force’s ability to provide effective and efficient services to the country,” the audit said.

“Of comparable concern was the lack of consistent and standardized practices of recruiting potential candidates to fill the void. While filling the void in strength is important, of even greater concern is the Police College’s lack of tangible and non-tangible resources to meet the current demands of recruitment within the 21st century.”

Promotions

The promotional practices on the force are “outdated, lack consistency and standardization”, according to the audit, which said there is no relationship between vacancy and promotion as the force engages in promotion exercises without consideration for the organizational effectiveness and efficiency.

The audit continued, “Not because an officer has been on the force for 20 years means he is suitable for an automatic promotion.

“There is no underlying principle which governs this process or any reasonable link between job descriptions for each post which should be the benchmark for promotion from one rank to another.”

The audit also revealed that recent promotional exercises were flawed and do not allow for impartiality.

It found that in the last promotion exercise, the selection boards were not formed and the promotion exercise began with interviews conducted by the promotion board. Additionally, the commissioner headed the board instead of the deputy commissioner, who is mandated to assume the role.

“Even more disturbing are the proceedings of the selection process as most candidates were baffled by the whole process,” the report said.

“One officer stated, ‘When I got into the interview I was asked if my shoes were clean and then an interviewer made a joke, after which I was told that the interview was finished’.”

The audit also found that there has been duplicity within specific ranks while other ranks “are being arbitrarily created”; the senior ranks are top-heavy with “no infusion of new and innovative ideas and practices”; and the rank of senior assistant commissioner was not included in the Police Act 2009, but two people serve in that role.

In May 2017, a series of promotions was announced.

Promotions included two superintendents to chief superintendents; 76 assistant superintendents to superintendents; 90 inspectors to assistant superintendents; and 107 sergeants to inspectors.

“For the rank of chief superintendent, the RBPF policy has job descriptions for only 11 head officers, but 23 persons hold this rank,” the audit said.

“Of that number, six were already heading sections, while the other 12 persons are performing the same duties which happen not within the sections associated with the rank.”

There has been a 2,200 percent increase in chief superintendents in the last seven years – from one in 2001 to 23 to date.

The audit also recommended administering competency tests for all ranks of officers.

As part of the promotional exercise, only officer ranks from corporal to sergeant take this test.

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