By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
WHILE the increased collaboration between the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and police has netted results for law enforcement, one marine has warned that the strategy could not become the final solution to the nation’s violent crime ills.
Leading Seaman Omar Albury, of the Commando Squadron, told The Tribune that long-term RBDF saturation patrols in inner-city hot spots could put a strain on local communities, and potentially engender an escalation in the type of conflict waged between law enforcement and criminals.
However, he noted that military trends around the world have shifted to increased sensitivity training for engagement with civilians.
“I’ve been a part of this department (Commando Squadron) for the majority of my career, 15 years, and I have noticed not only in The Bahamas, but a world trend when we train overseas especially to do with riot control and urban control,” Leading Seaman Albury said.
“A lot of laws and tactics have been changed over the past 15 years, so it’s a lot easier to deal with the civilian population in comparison to when I first joined the job and it was just about kill, kill, kill, it was the enemy, enemy, enemy. Now you can actually see a gradual difference where it’s conflict resolution; a lot of tactics have changed in that direction but that’s a world thing.
“I feel like we’re a lot better prepared,” he said. “The training has toned down a lot in that respect so we’re able to function a lot easier in the civilian population, but a marine is going to be a marine, and unfortunately the civilian population is (going to) be the civilian population. The only thing I can draw to, like in Jamaica, we don’t want that in The Bahamas.
“So that’s something I think we’re all trying to avoid, even the criminals trying to avoid that. So I believe it’s effective when it comes to the show of force but when it get down,” Leading Seaman Albury said, “it can’t be the final solution.”
When he spoke of Jamaica, Leading Seaman Albury was referring to the large-scale shootouts and lockdowns between the island nation’s police and military, and criminal factions that grabbed international headlines in 2010.
Last month, National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage announced several anti-crime strategies, including lockdowns, mobile police vans and an armed forces partnership to combat the bloody spate of murders plaguing the capital at the time.
Dr Nottage’s comments at the time came after eight people were killed within the span of one week, including a 15-year-old juvenile, a shooting spree so violent that Prime Minister Perry Christie likened the Bahamas’ crime situation to the “Wild West”.
Speaking to The Tribune, Leading Seaman Albury said: “I can’t remember who said it but the enemy line now is home. We don’t have to go to the enemy any more, the enemy is home, so you have to deal with your people, and that’s a world thing. For the most part, I believe the biggest issue would be the difference in the curriculum when it comes to the basic training.
“When you come on basic training you learn how to be a marine, in comparison to the police force who learn how to be, I call it like an on-the-spot lawyer, so they more familiar with a lot of the laws.
“We learn that you act and then you resolve. So that’s the biggest problem for more seasoned people on the job; you really learn how to solve the problem right there and deal with the consequences later in comparison to the police force.”
The marine spoke candidly with The Tribune on March 17, on the sidelines of a media embedment event that was staged to mark the force’s 37th anniversary this week.
“[Commando Squadron] is a unit designed to work exclusively and apart from the job,” Leading Seaman Albury said. “We are self-sufficient; our mandate as a department is to be able to operate for at least two months without interference or any kind of resources from any department. When it comes to training, we’re the amphibious unit, the bigger part of the job is navy, marine land and sea operations.”
He continued: “Primarily right now we’re working with the police. The reason they call us in is because we can assist with our expertise in urban patrolling as well as counter-terrorism team, so we have all these techniques about not only physically taking down an enemy but also understanding, planning, carrying out the mission.”