Rolle: Time to redefine policing

Speaking at a Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) A&B Squad Graduation ceremony on Grand Bahama yesterday, Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle cautioned the graduates about becoming officers in a global climate of increased scrutiny of police forces. 

“Recruits, you are graduating during a time when the role of police is receiving scrutiny around the world and the question is being asked as to the role and the relevance of the police,” he said.

“Where public awareness is at its highest due to the round-the-clock press coverage and social media… I am of the view that the time has come for policing as a profession to be redefined.”

Anti-police brutality protests have been staged in major cities around the world for the past few weeks following the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died while in police custody on May 25.

Last week, Supreme Court Justice Indra Charles ruled that a police officer used “excessive force” when she shot an unarmed man who was fleeing from a police station on April 29, 2007, citing the global unrest over George Floyd’s death as she delivered the ruling.

Justice Charles warned that the Royal Bahamas Police Force must guard itself against the kind of criticism of police brutality being seen around the world.

Rolle admitted yesterday that some officers “have lost their way” in following the RBPF’s guiding principles of maintaining peace without using excessive force.

“I must contend that there are those in policing who lost their way in following these tenets, and, perhaps, due to rising crime saw themselves as soldiers in a war,” he said.

However, he encouraged the new graduates to see themselves as “guardians” working with the public rather than “warriors fighting crimes” to improve police-community relations.

“You have sworn that you will well and truly serve in the office of a police officer without favor or affection, malice or ill will, and that you will cause her majesty’s peace to be kept and preserved and that you will prevent to the utmost of your power all offenses against the same,” Rolle said.

“And that while you shall continue to hold the said office, you will to the best of your knowledge and skill discharge all duties faithfully according to law. You must take this oath seriously as too many police officers forget the words as soon as they exit college.

“You must do your part to maintain public trust, and must perform your duties in a manner which respects individual human right and which reflects fairness, sensitivity and compassion.”

Minister of National Security Marvin Dames also spoke to the climate the recruits are graduating in, stating: “You are also pledging your service to the citizenry at a time when a movement against police brutality has gained international attention and is forcing many police agencies around the globe to reexamine their policing practices.

“I am sure each of you understands the use of force [guidelines] and will adhere to the policies and protocols established by your own organization and thereby be models of conduct in your respective police services.”

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