Royal Bahamas Police Force: force command
Allegations of partisan political influence on movements on the police force are neither new nor untrue, in spite of what the leader of the opposition recently said to the contrary.
Recent developments suggest that the arbitrary selection of some senior police officers who were made to take mandatory vacation and/or pre-retirement leave is not without a partisan political agenda.
This paper recalls that concern over the make-up and efficiency of the police force caused the government to commission an independent assessment of the force. The resulting report – the CDR Report – provided a professional basis for the government to determine new recruitment and training policies for the force, establish an appropriate strength or size required for an efficient and effective police force for The Bahamas and, very importantly, determined the appropriate composition of the force command – its leadership.
The report warned against a top-heavy organization and recommended that a number of redundant positions in the force be abolished. Among posts identified as unnecessary were those of chief superintendent, chief inspector and deputy superintendent.
The report also recommended that the police force ought to have a minimum number of junior officers so that there could be a rational distribution of ranks among officers, with junior officers reporting to more senior officers – constables to corporals to sergeants and so on.
The government of the day accepted many of the recommendations of the CDR Report. Notably they initiated a process that permitted officers in the posts marked for elimination to remain in post until otherwise promoted or retired; but no new persons were to be promoted to those ranks.
Regrettably, following the 2002 election some of these posts were restored and filled.
The CDR’s recommended force command called for four assistant commissioners of police but that rank was increased to 10 and the number of chief superintendents, a post that had a single officer in post in 2002, was increased to 20 between 2002 and 2007.
The madness that overtook the structure of the force command resulted in an assistant commissioner of police being appointed to run the Police Training College, a job typically assigned to officers of the rank of assistant superintendent and superintendent. That officer, Reginald Ferguson, would later serve as commissioner of police.
Another assistant commissioner, now the minister of national security, Marvin Dames, was assigned to Lynden Pindling International Airport.
Efforts to correct the police force structure commenced following the enactment of the Police Force Act, 2009. Through a policy of attrition, the numbers in the posts deemed unnecessary to an efficient force were gradually being reduced and the rapid depletion of the junior ranks by unjustified and superfluous promotions was contained.
Following the general election in 2012, the post-2002 structure was reinstated.
Then following elections in 2017, the government commissioned a Manpower Audit of the Force, which was tabled in the House of Assembly in 2018. This report revealed that much of the progress made in correcting the force command had been compromised by 2017. [See chart at right, above]
We agree that action is required if the existing topsy-turvy force command structure is to be righted.
We believe that some of the political acrimony surrounding movements in the police force command might be reduced if the government were to make public the accepted organizational chart of the senior force command with information on the number of officers now in post against the optimum number of officers required for the post in an efficient force command.
The government should then publicly commit to a policy to be applied, without fear or favor, so as to achieve the optimum staffing of the force.