In seeking to address perceptions that were forming in the public domain regarding the unfortunate killing by police of a highly regarded Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) marine early Monday, Minister of National Security Wayne Munroe decided to play judge and jury in revealing that Leading Seaman Rodney Adderley had mental health challenges and suggesting that those challenges might have led to his death.
Most inappropriately, the minister told reporters the marine had received counseling and psychiatric assistance and that the RBDF had also sent welfare assistance to Adderley’s ailing mother. Munroe questioned whether the assistance to Adderley had been enough.
Police reported on Monday that the marine had been sitting in his vehicle in Chippingham shortly before 4 a.m. when police officers arrived to follow up on a complaint about a suspicious vehicle.
According to police, the unarmed Adderley charged at officers once he left his vehicle and one of the officers who attempted “to evade his oncoming aggression” shot and killed him.
Many who heard of the incident, particularly those who knew Adderley, were understandably alarmed by it.
The RBDF described him as “a dedicated and committed individual” who was a “highly qualified training instructor”. Adderley had participated in numerous training courses and had received numerous commendations, including for his humanitarian efforts on Abaco after Hurricane Dorian.
From all we have heard about him, including from those who trained under Adderley, he was an exemplary marine. This is why his killing by police was so worrying and questionable.
This is not to suggest that any killing by police should not raise concerns. All must be properly and fairly investigated without any effort by any minister of government or any other authority figure to shape opinion in the absence of any formal probe.
And that is what Munroe was clearly seeking to do given his seeming annoyance at public reaction to the killing.
In a statement on Monday night, the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the RBDF said they were conducting a joint investigation into the shooting, and that the video footage from the police body camera was consistent with the account given by the officers.
Munroe also said he saw the footage and it is consistent with the officers’ account.
Anyone listening to the minister’s comments to reporters on Tuesday would be left with the impression that he has already concluded in the absence of an investigation that the shooting was justifiable.
In another life, when he was a defense attorney in June 2020, Munroe slammed Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle for suggesting that the police killings of three reportedly armed men had been justified.
“The investigation hadn’t [been] completed. He’s the most senior policeman; what other policeman can form a different view on their subordinate to him?” Munroe questioned, adding that police-involved shootings should be investigated by an independent body and not by the police force.
“It cannot be proper that the body that is investigating this homicide could decide whether it is justifiable or not,” he said at the time.
He was also critical of the slow pace of matters proceeding through the coroner’s system, a view we do not disagree with. But the judicial backlog is a separate matter entirely.
In informing that he had viewed the footage of Adderley’s killing, and suggesting the shooting was justifiable, the minister seems to have already delivered a verdict in the matter. If he was attempting to inspire confidence in law enforcement, and in our judicial system, he might have done the opposite.
We agree with Free National Movement Chairman Carl Culmer that the minister’s careless commentary preempts the official investigation and prejudices the coroner’s inquest.
Culmer rightly observed, “It is unacceptable for the minister of national security to openly comment on an active investigation of a police-involved shooting, particularly when the deceased was also a member of the armed forces under the minister’s remit.”
Further, the minister’s revelations regarding Adderley’s purported mental health issues were ill-advised. Munroe, who spent decades as a defense attorney, must understand his role now as national security minister and must not feed into misinformed views on how people with mental health issues are prone to behave.
Even if Adderley had mental health challenges, it speaks volumes that he was able to overcome those and have such a stellar career.
We make no determination on whether his killing was justifiable, and look forward to the outcome of the investigation by the competent officials tasked under law with getting to the truth.