A tradition of transparency
Police Commissioner Anthony Ferguson yesterday held the annual crime stats briefing with the media. This is a common practice with law enforcement agencies in democratic jurisdictions. The top cop reports on the successes and failures in the crime fight the previous 12 months.
Overall, there was good news in his report. Crime decreased by eight percent in 2018 compared to the previous year. Murder was down 25 percent.
The major decline in murders came after a difficult decade. Between 2007 and 2017 there were five murder records. The worst year was 2015 when there were 146. There were 91 in 2018.
In our country the commissioner of police probably holds the second most powerful office to that of prime minister. It is important for high public officials to subject themselves to scrutiny in the manner he did yesterday. Journalists ask questions on behalf of the people. Through these types of events the most powerful are interrogated on behalf of us all.
For as much as we complain about the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF), it is likely the most communicative, responsive and open state agency to inquiries from the media. The commissioner, most of his senior command and the police press officer can be regularly found. And they answer questions.
You may not always get the answer you want. You may disagree with what is said. But at least the force has a culture of attempting to be open.
In many government agencies if journalists try to call the head, no one is available. There is also no competent communications director able to answer serious questions and speak on behalf of the department. There may be someone who sends out insignificant press releases, but that’s it.
Consequently, too often ministers speak about things under their portfolios they clearly know little to nothing about. The agencies and their leaders, the ones who make the decisions and who handle situations, should be addressing these matters. Ministers should address major issues and policy.
Our police are not perfect, but they set an example for other state agencies when it comes to communications and attempting to be open.
The prime minister has pledged to hold meet the press events like the one the commissioner of police did yesterday. He has not done so yet. He should.
As leader of the country it is essential for him to come before the full press corps from time to time to subject himself to their questions on behalf of the people.
It is not a difficult process. You simply answer truthfully, telling the people what is going on.
We hope to see Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis at one of these events soon. If Anthony Ferguson can do it, so can he.