The government’s failure at restructuring the police force

The incompetence of the government in restructuring the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) is astounding.

The Progressive Liberal Party, in 2007 and again in 2017, left behind a “gussiemae” senior command structure of the RBPF. The last time, they left 12 assistant commissioners of police.

Barbados, with a comparable size police force, has four assistant commissioners and a noticeably leaner command structure. (See chart)

The RBPF senior command was streamlined between 2007 and 2012 when the number of assistant commissioners was reduced to five. An audit of the RBPF manpower, undertaken by the Free National Movement, was tabled in the House of Assembly in 2018.

Neither Parliament nor the public was advised how the government proposed to achieve a new, presumably leaner force command.

In March this year, the government abruptly announced that the deputy commissioner and six assistant commissioners of police were mandated to take vacation leave as their leave entitlement exceeded the permissible maximum period for accumulated vacation leave. It was presumed that the officers eligible to retire would do so at the expiration of their vacation leave.

Especially peculiar was that there were other officers on the force who were both nearer retirement age and with more weeks of accumulated leave who were not being mandated to take leave. The present commissioner of police is one such officer, as are at least two other assistant commissioners.

These mandated vacations reduced the number of assistant commissioner of police from a “gussiemae” 12 to an anemic three. The crisis resulting from the impact of Hurricane Dorian did not cause any recall of officers placed on leave.

It was expected that officers who were not at, or near, retirement age nor had they reached the age by which they might be called upon to retire, would return to their posts. We now know that is not the case.

Minister of National Security Marvin Dames likened the proposed reassignment of Assistant Commissioner of Police Ken Strachan, who has returned to duty having exhausted his vacation leave including his 2019 entitlement, to chief security officer at disciplinary schools under the remit of the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development in keeping with earlier assignments of senior police officers to head the Passport Office and the Department of Immigration.

The minister did not mention that both the chief passport officer and director of immigration posts are long established public service posts with established rank and salary scales. Nor did the minister acknowledge that the Ministry of Social Development is headed by a minister who was a Sergeant when he left the RBPF.

In the case of the chief passport officer post, there is a long tradition, not restricted to The Bahamas, of the post being held by police officers.

The minister will need to enlighten the Bahamian public on when the position of chief security officer for the boys and girls schools was created, at what rank and with what remuneration.

It is increasingly difficult for the public to believe the government on these matters.

When the senior police officers, much like the commodore of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, were mandated to take accumulated vacation leave, the reason given was fiscal prudence. Now, according to Minister Dames, it’s the transitioning period to a new structure recommended by the audit report.

The government maintains that its actions are not politically motivated.

In this matter we are reminded of Jacob’s deception of his father Abraham so as to receive the patriarchal blessing. Suspicious, Abraham says: “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.”

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