Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle said yesterday that he is addressing concerns of police brutality within the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF), noting that the implementation of new policies are underway “to clean that up”.
Anti-police brutality protests are being held in major cities around the world following the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died while in police custody last week.
Asked whether he plans to reform the RBPF to deal with allegations of brutality by officers, Rolle replied, “We have been addressing that. I’m taking a more proactive approach to dealing with breaches of discipline in the Royal Bahamas Police Force and trying to clean that up.
“I think we are making some good progress. Internally, you’re going to see some things. We’ve also been dealing with the police inspectorate and that is a process that we have ongoing.”
Rolle said he’s put out a number of policies to address “shortcomings” within the force.
“There were breaches that were not really provided for,” he told reporters outside the Quakoo Street Police Station.
“And so, I’m now codifying some of them, so that officers can know their limitations.”
When pressed on the details of some of those policies, Rolle said, “One of those would be the professional standards. I just finished reviewing that about 10 minutes ago.”
He said a policy will be implemented to address officers’ dress code as well as social media usage.
Rolle said the latter will be released “within a couple of days”.
“There’s a whole compendium of [legislation] and I’m reviewing and revising many of those because the times have changed,” the commissioner said.
“So, we have to modernize them in order to address issues that we encounter today.”
Complaints against police declined in 2019 compared to 2018.
There were 151 complaints made against officers in 2019: 17 for conduct of a major nature, 133 for unethical behavior and one for neglect of duty. The numbers show that 70 of the complaints were listed as incomplete and 81 were listed as completed.
Police in The Bahamas have, over the years, come under fire, over killing young men.
In recent years, two deaths, in particular, rocked the force: the 2013 custody deaths of Aaron Rolle and Jamie Smith. Both men, who died in separate incidents, were found dead in their cells, while being detained by police.
The police killing of Deangelo Evans in 2018 enraged many in the community. Police said they killed the 20-year-old after he allegedly pointed a gun at officers, but residents and eyewitnesses at the scene of the killing said Evans was innocent and unarmed.
In 2019, during a summation to a jury in a police involved shooting case, Coroner Jeanine Weech-Gomez said, “We have no special task force to investigate an officer in a police-involved shooting. In this jurisdiction, if there is fatal police shooting, it is the police who will investigate the police.”
In January 2020, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames told a group of law enforcement officers that anyone acting outside their authority will not be tolerated, noting that the government takes claims of police brutality seriously.
His comments came after several videos purportedly depicting police officers beating a group of young men at the 2020 New Year’s Junkanoo Parade were shared on social media.
The videos raised questions about whether officers used unnecessary force in dealing with them.
In an effort to increase transparency and accountability on the force, officials pledged to implement body cameras and dash cameras.
In January, the government signed a contract valued at more than $600,000 with Aston Enterprises (AE) Tactical Ltd. for 200 body and dash cameras. The cameras were expected to be put into use during the first quarter of 2020, Dames said at the time.