Police brutality in The Bahamas

Dear Editor,

Recent videos of police using unjustified force on a group of young men again raised questions and mixed reactions concerning the solution to the crime problem.

However, several things are at work.

Historically, most Bahamians share the belief or have been conditioned to accept that physical force and battery are the solutions to social disorder, exclaiming “it never killed me” or “it made me a better person”; but let us all be honest, is not police brutality counterproductive?

Is stomping and, plainly put, ganging up on a defenceless, unarmed man the solution to the crime problem?

This quick leap to violence dates back to slavery, and is bound in Christian dogma (i.e. spare the rod, spoil the child), some say. But in the modern day, it’s frightening to know that this mindset has become a state-sanctioned tactic.

It is my belief that police misconduct in the form of brutality only creates a deeper rift between the police and the stakeholders of the community.

It is no help to the crime problem if the community sees the police as the threat or enemy.

Arguably, most police officers were not adequately educated to understand that the so-called misbehavior of these young men is bound in a broader picture, which is class warfare.

For instance, John Doe grew up in a dysfunctional, one-parent, low-income wooden shack, where he was neglected, probably raped even.

He did not find solace at home so he sought it on the streets.

He did not have lunch to eat, and the problems at home were so great, learning was the least of his concerns, consequently unobtainable.

He has already been raising himself or was raised by the street, and as a result, his poor socialization, illiteracy and social isolation have led him to one choice, which is to seize an innocent woman’s purse or to project his dysfunction through any outlet that would condone it, such as a gang.

Someone reading this may rebut, “Well, that was my situation too, but I didn’t turn out to be bad” or “I saw my condition and didn’t want that for myself; I wanted better” in an attempt to suggest that we are all equal and these circumstances are so simple.

It may also be an attempt to deny that our free market economics does not cater to those at the bottom of the food chain.

The situation of these young men range from toxic masculinity (or the need to assert characteristics of what they perceive as “being a man” even if it is violent) right down to hunger.

In a way, they are social exiles – unsocialized, unacknowledged and pigeonholed for society’s ills.

A Bahamian song parodied a group of young men going in for a job interview, unkempt and unprepared, and as a result denied.

The majority of Bahamians would argue that John Doe doesn’t want to work.

He only wants to steal what others have worked so hard to obtain. Or, his parents did not do a good job at rearing him, or even condoned his stealing.

But the broader picture is that the parents are unsocialized also, and so there’s an ongoing cycle of dysfunction which is largely undiscussed in The Bahamas.

In many ways, the only difference between these perceived thugs and some of the police, is the uniform.

Many male police officers package toxic masculinity which is reflected in the way they treat the citizenry.

Based on multiple personal experiences with the police, I can vouch that many of them are poorly recruited, and their behavior is indicative of that in a totalitarian communist state.

The foregoing comparison may seem extreme, but it is justifiable on the basis that the police officers in the video seen attacking those young men will be exonerated of their misconduct and this then raises the question — if proven that those officers are guilty of police misconduct, would there be a settlement for those attacked?

The commissioner of the police made the remark that “you only get what you give us”, which is to say the community plays a role in the vetting process of potential cops.

The community gives positive reports of candidates for the police force. While there’s some truth to his comment, the thing to do then is to stiffen the criteria for potential candidates of the force.

I’d suggest that the police undergo a beginner’s course in bioethics, or even anthropology.

The rudimentary English and mathematics that they’re taught at the academy are insufficient to prepare them to handle complex scenarios in which they’re thrusted, devoid of personal conviction/opinion, sexual preference, etc.

I do not suggest that police officers be university professors, but that they are more humanized.

If not, there’s the issue of reparation. We must begin to take these cases of police misconduct to court, the same way we hastily rely on the prison for an ounce of marijuana.

– Glenn King

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