Amid talks of budget cuts as a result of COVID-19, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames yesterday defended the decision to promote 68 police officers in spite of a manpower audit that found the police force to be too top-heavy.
Dames also defended the promotion of Debra Thompson, who came under criticism for her role in the Shane Gibson bribery case.
During the bribery trial of Gibson, it was revealed that Thompson had a joint meeting with key witness Jonathan Ash and public servant Deborah Bastian, who had worked closely with Gibson, to “synchronize” their statements.
Gibson, who won his trial, has since threatened legal action over Thompson’s promotion.
Dames said Gibson is entitled to take that action, but assured Thompson is worth the promotion.
“As far as some action taken by a citizen, they’re entitled to it,” Dames said on the sidelines of a contract signing at the Royal Bahamas Defence Force base.
“The commissioner made recommendations as to who he would wish to recommend. That’s his force.
“I would have gone on record to speak about the officer in question, who would have worked under me while I served. And I have the utmost, I repeat utmost, confidence in her integrity and her ability. People go to court all the time and matters are won or lost.
“So, who decides what may have resulted in someone winning a case or someone losing a case? I am not going to, as a minister, get in these side antics and political tricks. If the commissioner made a recommendation, he stands by that recommendation, and there is nothing to justify removing an officer or not promoting an officer, then that’s a moot point as far as I’m concerned. I’m not going to speak to that anymore.”
Two weeks ago, 23 officers were promoted from the rank of superintendent to chief superintendent. Forty-five officers were promoted from the rank of assistant superintendent to superintendent.
Regarding upcoming budget cuts, and the recent manpower audit, Dames said, “We’re adhering to the audit.
“As you know, those numbers continue to come down and decline in terms of ranks. We want to support the new commissioner and his executive team. We want to see them succeed because if they succeed we have a better Bahamas and we continue to work through with the commissioner to ensure that the audit is adhered to as much as possible.”
Asked if the promotions may have been inappropriate given the government’s financial situation in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the prime minister’s hinting at budget cuts in ministries, Dames said the promotions were previously budgeted for.
“These promotions would have been provisioned for during the last budget,” he said.
“And we as the Ministry of National Security are making cuts like every other ministry. And so we would have gone through that process of making cuts, and we’re going to have to make more cuts, like every other ministry.”
Dames said the law enforcement officers have been working nonstop through the COVID-19 crisis.
“Our men and women in uniform, they haven’t stopped working yet,” he said.
“We asked them to work holidays. They have families too. Many of us are at home just relaxing.”
The promotions came a week after three police officers were promoted to assistant commissioners of police.
A manpower audit of the force, which was conducted in 2017, found that the organization was too top-heavy with senior officers.
The audit found that there was an 800-officer deficit in the rank of constable and recommended that only 11 officers hold the rank of chief superintendent as “review of the rank structure and associated primary duties revealed absolutely no differences in the job descriptions of superintendents and chief superintendents”.
It also found that the promotional practices on the force are “outdated, lack consistency and standardization”.
Following the audit, the force’s top brass was gutted when eight senior officers, including then-Deputy Commissioner of Police Emrick Seymour, were sent on leave.