Twenty-twenty has had an inauspicious beginning.
New year’s resolutions and best wishes are proving useless in our search for responsible leadership whether in the government or the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
The prime minister saw the new year in rushing with the Saxons and running from any suggestion that the urgent and outstanding need for campaign finance reform will be addressed this year.
Responding to journalists’ questions on the sidelines of the Junkanoo parade, he said that he had seven more years in which to fulfil that campaign promise — a presumption at best that his party will be returned to office at the next general elections and a callous disregard of a commitment that not only served as a linchpin of his 2017 election campaign but which he also chose to highlight in the Speech from the Throne.
Days later, the attorney general could not recall that the FNM had committed in its 2017 Manifesto to the introduction of a system of recall for non-performing members of Parliament.
That commitment was a part of a bevy of promises by the FNM including term limits for prime ministers and an independent Electoral Boundaries Commission.
Then the minister of education advised that some $5 million would be required to repair the Patrick Bethel High School on Abaco, contradicting his $4 million estimate in mid-December. Has the minister seen the damaged school? We are advised that $1 million would make the school safely habitable.
And, the minister of health after commendably acknowledging that over 200 lives were lost in Hurricane Dorian, walked his statement back the following day. The minister needs to be clear. Is it the fake 70 who died or is it the more realistic and believable hundreds?
Looking to engender respect for the rights of the individual among uniformed officers, the minister of national security commendably used his address at the 2019 Annual Police Church Service to remind the rank and file that no level of abuse by police officers would be tolerated.
But then the minister publicly reminded the commissioner of police that he ought to have already identified his successor as his “reign” over the Royal Bahamas Police Force was nearing its end.
We think the move showed poor leadership skill on the part of the minister and served to undermine the authority of the commissioner for the remainder of his term in office.
Then the commissioner of police, passing responsibility and accountability for the deportment of some of his officers, placed the blame for their poor performance onto their parents.
He appears to have forgotten that applicants to the police force are not automatically engaged. They must meet set criteria including academic qualifications and verified character traits.
Following the selection process, recruits are housed by the police and required to undergo a period of training and only then are they deployed as police officers.
While it is always possible that a “bad apple” will slip through a recruitment and training exercise, surely no properly organized and managed disciplined organization ought to use as an excuse for poor performance the home training of its officers.
We are informed that the current leadership of the police force often place greater emphasis on gender than on qualification and suitability in their recruitment exercises, rejecting stellar female applicants likely to bring honor to the force.
This is unfortunate. It is also contrary to the practice internationally where females have been moving up the ranks of police departments for decades, several leading police departments.
We wonder also whether the police force has abandoned its past practice of recruiting officers from the Family Islands, from which some of our police with the most stellar records originated.
It ought not to be lost on the leadership of the force that at least five, if not all, commissioners of police since independence, hailed from a family island.