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Casualties of war

11 people  killed by police in 2018
Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson (center) addresses the media during the force’s annual crime statistics report press conference at RBPF headquarters yesterday. Several senior police officers, including Deputy Commissioner of Police Emerick Seymour (left) and Senior Assistant Commissioner Stephen Dean were also in attendance. AHVIA J. CAMPBELL

Casualties of war is how Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson yesterday described those shot and killed by police in 2018.

His comments came during a press conference at police headquarters where he revealed crime statistics for 2018.

The number of fatal police shootings was not included in those crime statistics or disclosed at that press conference, though police later released that information.

According to police, there were 11 fatal police-involved shootings and nine non-fatal police-involved shootings in 2018.

Police did not give a figure for how many people were shot by police in 2017.

When asked why there has been no clarity from police on the status of these fatal shootings, Ferguson said, “In any war there are casualties.

“So if you are confronting police, more than likely there will be casualties and there is a judicial part of the system that will adjudicate over that.”

However, there were contested stories of several police-involved shootings last year.

Such was the case in the death of 20-year-old Deangelo Evans of Mason’s Addition, who police said was shot and killed after he pointed a gun at officers on Sandy Lane, off McCullough Corner, in May.

Residents and family members of Evans were outraged. They claimed there was no gun and he was a law-abiding citizen.

Centreville MP Reece Chipman called for a full report into the police shooting. That report has not been forthcoming.

The most recent police-involved shooting happened on December 19, 2018.

Barry McPhee Jr., 29, was shot and killed on Woods Alley after he reportedly shot at officers from the roof of a home.

The status of these cases in the Coroner’s Court, where all police shootings are investigated, is unclear.

The Guardian understands that none of the matters from 2018 has yet been heard in the Coroner’s Court.

When pressed on fatal police shooting statistics yesterday, Ferguson said, “They are [interactions] between the police and persons who confront the police and police take the necessary action and those matters are adjudicated at another level.

“You have the numbers, we have the numbers.

“We are not afraid to tell you how [many] persons were fatally shot by police. We report to the press as they happen.”

 Body cameras

The question of body cameras on police has consistently arisen in the wake of numerous police shootings.

Acknowledging that the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) has been in the testing phase of its body camera program for at least a year, Ferguson said yesterday the force is “very, very close” to introducing body cameras.

“We believe in being transparent,” Ferguson said.

“And so, very, very soon you will see body cams being worn. We are very, very close to acquiring that.

“I know you may say that, ‘Commissioner, you told us about testing body cams for a little while.’ Yes. But I can tell you that it is much closer today than it has been.

“And so, you will find that the Ministry of National Security will be making a statement on who should be awarded the contract to provide body cams for the Royal Bahamas Police Force.”

Last January, when he presented crime statistics for 2017, Ferguson said that the RBPF was testing a number of body cameras from various suppliers with a view to acquiring them.

“On the issue of body cams, as you have heard me say a couple months ago…we are testing any number of body cams from different suppliers,” Ferguson said last year.

“Once we are happy with the supplier that has given us the best that we are looking for, you will know.”

Since coming to office, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames has continually touted the government’s intended use of body cameras to modernize law enforcement.

Following a viral video of an officer slapping a man who identified himself as a tourist in November last year, Dames said, “We are serious about police offers adhering, [and] not only police officers, law enforcement officers on the whole, they’re supposed to be upholders of the law and this government takes it very seriously.

“As you are aware, we are moving to introduce body cams in the Royal Bahamas Police Force and this is one of the reasons why, because we want to ensure that we protect members of the public from rogue officers and we protect those officers who hold true to their oath, which are the majority of officers within the force who are very hardworking and very committed and are dedicated.

“We want to protect them too against persons who may be unfairly [besmirching] their name but we also primarily want to protect our members of the public from officers who take the law into their own hands.”

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