Fernander: Sometimes officers need to use force

There are times when a police officer has to use force to “subdue” suspects, Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) President Bishop Delton Fernander said on Tuesday, adding that he “fully supports” an officer’s right to do so.

His comments came amid public concern about police brutality after several videos, depicting police hitting civilians, were recently circulated on social media.

“Police officers make decisions,” Fernander told The Nassau Guardian.

“As a young officer or senior officer, you make a decision where what has happened in fact warrants you going to station. Obviously, corporal punishment — in this day in time — for adults is not the kind of way we want to go.

“But it is hoped that this [body] camera will help the force, the officers and protect the general public. No brutality in any sort is tolerated by the police force, but there are times where you have to subdue.

“I’ve seen videos of young people physically handling police officers. That’s a no-no. And if that produces a strong put down, that’s given by the law and allowed by the law. So, my point being is when you see half of a tape, a portion of a tape, the body cams I believe will help with that.

“We obviously don’t want anybody to be taken advantage of but I fully support officers having to use the extent of the law to subdue and arrest persons. That’s their gamut and that’s what we hope they’ll do.”

In one of the videos, several uniformed officers are seen next to a group of young men lined off with their hands pressed against a wall.

One officer, who was swinging a long baton, proceeded to hit one of the young men as he allowed him to walk away, without arresting him.

The officer then did the same to another man, who walked away from the scene without being arrested.

When asked about the video, Fernander said, “I go back to my days as a young man going to Junkanoo with the masses of young people. You can’t arrest all of them, but you can tell them all line up on a wall and a decision is made.”

On Tuesday, the government signed a contract for more than $600,000 with Aston Enterprises (AE) Tactical Ltd. for 200 body and dash cameras.

Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said the cameras are expected to be introduced to the force by the end of the first quarter of 2020.

He said Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson and a team of officers have drafted a policy outlining how the cameras will be used.

According to Fernander, body cameras will be “vitally important” to the operation of the Royal Bahamas Police Force.

“I think we’ll get a good look at how dangerous policing is,” he said.

“I am concerned in my line of work I get footages that the public doesn’t get. I see officers being physically harmed. I see officers being attacked.

“How do you put down somebody when the camera picks up when you’re subduing them but doesn’t pick up when the attack is on you? The camera will always be rolling on a bodycam and on a dashcam.”

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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