By ADRIAN GIBSON
Without doubt, Long Island must be home to some of the worst, most unprofessional police officers in the Bahamas.
I have to speak about the performance of some police officers on Long Island, who I had long heard were lackadaisical, lax and often appear uninterested in fulfilling their mandate to protect and serve island folk. A recent experience I have had with the police on Long Island has made these assertions by many Long Islanders vividly real.
Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade – a good policeman by all accounts – must develop a more effective rotational scheme for the Family Islands and in doing so would avoid officers becoming too comfortable and lazy, sidestep inertia setting in and he should have an assessment team to come into the islands to review officers’ performances and speak to residents.
As it stands, there are a number of police officers on Long Island who could not give a hill of beans about policing, who clearly see their time on Long Island (as some do in many other islands) as one to relax and pretend to be a tourist who wears a police uniform, who turns into the two police stations on the island for a few hours each day before returning home, visiting a bar or fraternising.
It is obvious that there are some officers situated on the island who merely see their time there as one where they could live rent free and collect a salary, not pay for transportation as they could use the police vehicles for any and all things and, as the old people say, “live off of the fat of the land”.
What ever happened to community policing? What ever happened to knowing the persons around you and liaising with them?
I can think of a number of stories that I can relay, told to me by residents and close family, about the performance of certain police officers in Long Island who – when sought out for assistance – claim that they are “already off for the day”, that “they are sleeping”, “they are with their families and don’t wish to be disturbed” and some other excuse that is representative of an absolute dereliction of duty.
If one were to read any legislation relative to the police force, one would clearly glean that police officers are never really “off”. They may be off-duty but their official status as a police officer dictates that they assist citizens when called upon, without fear or favour. I will communicate many of the personal stories concerning the police on Long Island – communicated to me by family members and persons who don’t wish to be exposed here today – via a detailed, private communique to my family friend, Minister of State Keith Bell, and the Commissioner of Police.
I have already written to ACP Stephen Dean, who I know to be one of the most professional and upstanding police officers in uniform. Further, my recommendation to the Commissioner would be that he considers transferring most of the police officers on Long Island, many of whom have gone there and see it as a far-flung, Out Island country club.
On behalf of many Long Islanders, I say here that we are fed up with their disrespect, their dismal performances and their out-and-out disregard for people.
For a long time, Long Islanders – particularly those in the north – felt that the best policeman on that island was native Omar Daley and he is really a businessman who served as a police reservist. I do not know if he still does so but he was known to have a heart for island folk, to be sincerely concerned about community police and serving the public. Folks in my home town don’t see much of that.
Whilst I fault police situated at both the station in Simms and in Deadman’s Cay as being slack in the performance of their duties, I know - without doubt - that the officers at the Simms Police Station appear to be in need of urgent retraining in policing, urgent Bahama Host training and an urgent pep-talk from ACP Dean on community policing.
Now, to my most memorable and horrid experience with the police in Long Island…
Last week, it came to my attention that one of my rental vehicles, a red Honda Fit, had gone missing beyond the initial rental period and that the renter had not returned it nor found cause to call the company. I instructed my people to approach the police about this; however, I was told that a police officer had already been there on the Tuesday morning that the car was supposed to be turned in.
That officer purportedly stopped the young man who has stepped in to assist with the operation of my business whilst our general manager is here in Nassau attending the doctor. During that stop, the officer inquired about the identity of the person to whom the car had been rented and the young man provided him with the information form, which reflected the driver’s licence information of the renter and so on. When asked if anything was wrong, the officer allegedly told him that he had only inquired as they had seen the car in the south of the island and wondered if the car had been stolen.
Now, once a vehicle is rented, if the renter wants to explore the island or go anywhere for that matter, I see no issue with a car used in either the south or the north; it is, after all, one island where most people know each other and cars can travel anywhere as long as they are returned in the same condition. To me, that in and of itself indicated that something was known but not communicated. Moreover, I am told that that officer had spoken to Malachi Knowles, a cousin of ours, on Monday evening (the day the car was rented), making similar inquiries, but Knowles was unable to provide much information as he had not handled the rental.
Last Friday, I spoke to the officer and expressed my concerns after having been informed that the vehicle was overdue by nearly three days and that, based on all the information I had received, the vehicle could be considered stolen. I informed the police officer that the rental period had lapsed and that no call or communication was made between the renter and my business, nor could the renter be contacted or located.
The officer told me that while much could not be said at that time, I could expect a call that day. That call never came.
By Friday afternoon, I got a call from Malachi Knowles, who then passed the phone to Inspector Rodgers. The inspector had travelled from the southern end of the island to inform us that they had found the rental car about 50 or so miles away, off a beaten track road in the bushes of the Scrub Hill settlement. He told me that the vehicle was found covered with broken tree branches and bushes to conceal it. I was also informed that the vehicle was found in a ditch, presumably – he said – due to the renter attempting to move the car at another time and not knowing the terrain. It was also mentioned that impediments (rocks and some kind of fence) were placed in the road to give the impression that it was not a place that could be driven upon.
I told the inspector that that was clearly indicative of a plan on the part of the renter not to return the vehicle and that I would once again – much like I did in the earlier conversation with the other officer – like to lodge a complaint regarding the vehicle being stolen. He and I agreed that on account of how the vehicle was found, it was clear that there was no intent to return the vehicle. It has been alleged that the police were using the vehicle as bait to catch the renter for other criminal acts.
What’s more, I also wanted to lodge a complaint about the vehicle being damaged, considering the fact that it was found in a ditch or some kind of drop-off.
I told him that I would like to make my complaint to him then and there and to put it on the record. He advised me to contact Officer Roker from the Simms Police Station, which I did. I spoke to the officer he recommended around 3.25pm and at least she was pleasant. I informed her that I would be a part of a legal team appearing before a Supreme Court Justice in the ensuing five minutes and that, once court was complete, I would contact her with a comprehensible statement reflecting all I had gleaned. She noted that she was off duty at 5pm and I told her that she would hear from me before then.
When I was able to call, around 4.30-4.40pm, I was told by Sergeant Poitier that Officer Roker had left for the day. I told Sgt Poitier of my ownership interest in the vehicle/company and that I wished to lodge a complaint. I identified myself. Frankly, I felt that he very nonchalantly listened to (and interrupted) what I was telling him and, at some point, again began to ask my details – who am I, what do I do (which I had earlier told him), my phone contacts, where I worked, etc. I answered all of his questions. I then told him about what I had been told about the renter and that it was of great concern to me that the police had not responded to the situation more professionally.
He asked me about the licence plate number for the car and the insurance details, both of which I told him I would have brought in as I do not reside in Long Island. The policeman noted that he would put what I said down on some sheet and then told me to make a formal complaint at a police station in Nassau. I found that stunning and totally unbelievable. I had spent all that time on the phone with him and here he was telling me I had to go to a station down here to make a complaint about an incident that happened there.
I offered to send a written complaint to him via email: he said he could not receive email at the Simms Police Station and told me to send it to Inspector Rodgers instead.
I then told him I would have the other information he requested brought in to the station the following day (Saturday) and he told me he didn’t work on weekends but noted that I could have them dropped to the station as “the station will be open”.
To cut a long story short, on Friday evening my team located my vehicle, stopping at the inspector’s house and engaging his support in travelling to the vehicle. I do credit him with protecting them as they did so.
That Saturday, though a team went to retrieve the vehicle with a truck, they could not do so as the ropes popped and all attempts were futile. My greatest concern was that they would be harmed, particularly as the police on the island had purportedly engaged in a manhunt for the renter who we are told served 19 years in prison for murder, is allegedly also wanted for housebreaking and drug trafficking, for using the rental vehicle in undertaking his crimes and likely living in the vehicle.
The vehicle was eventually retrieved after much chopping of bushes and with the use of a wrecker. And, when they did so – in the face of inherent danger – they could not find any police officer available and willing to escort them, even with the circumstances concerning the convict.
I am appalled by the nonchalant, don’t-care-attitude taken by the police in this entire episode. There are many Long Islanders who have also complained relative to their handling of information and the so-called manhunt.
It seems to me that a number of police officers in Long Island abdicated their responsibilities.
I love the police. My dad was a policeman and I have many cousins and friends who are members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF). I know many hardworking police officers.
The assumption is that nothing happens on Long Island, though we are increasingly facing challenges with crimes on several of the larger islands. Crime is an issue.
Yes, the challenges facing the RBPF are extensive, particularly given those in communities throughout our archipelagic chain. One need only look at the other jurisdictions where a less-than-disciplined police force results in burgeoning crime and chaos, a lack of confidence and inadequate responses to the public’s needs. This creates tremendous challenges for the criminal justice system.
A critical part of the resurgence in the morale of the RBPF does not come from the numbers in the organisation but must come from those recruited, from the men and women in the organisation. We must identify the best and brightest and continue to actively weed out the bad apples and the indolent members as failure to do so will see the calibre of men and women recruited to that noble entity to cause it to lose its glare and to add to the downward spiral that our society faces.
Community policing must become the focus. What are police officers on the islands for if not to protect and serve? Why even become a police officer if one is not willing to fulfil the mandate of policing and, what’s more, engage in the kind of community policing that I know officers such as Stephen Dean espouse all the time? We cannot take a laidback approach to crime.
Prime Minister Perry Christie’s blunders
I thought that I could avoid speaking about Mr Christie this week, but he can’t seem to get out of his own way.
The stress of office must be getting to the PM and clearly he is not dealing with it in a reasonably, Prime Ministerial fashion.
His recent comments can only be deemed to be inappropriate and demonstrative of contempt, primarily for journalists, awkwardly for the journalism students sitting in the audience and unwittingly for the public at large.
In a moment of quiet reflection, he ought to understand that an apology is in order.
We understand his stress though. After all, he has two Cabinet ministers who have in recent time shown themselves as being unfit to be in Cabinet, a former Parliamentary Secretary who has committed an unspeakable act that he has ignored and, what’s more, he appears on the cusp of ushering in a failed carnival. What’s more, his policies have contributed to the decisions of many business houses to downsize. And that is just the tip of the iceberg!
I actually like Mr Christie. I think he is a sincerely nice man. But his leadership stylings beg for so much more.
I would advise the PM to fire those who need to be fired and to take the heat off himself. Wrong is wrong and if one breaches the ethical protocols associated with being in Cabinet, the choice is clear.