By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
Thirty-four recruits completed fire training at the Police College in Freeport, making them the first Fire Squad to pass out in over a decade at the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
National Security Minister Marvin Dames and Police Commissioner Anthony Ferguson were present for the graduation ceremony for D Squad 2018 held at Police Headquarters on Thursday in Grand Bahama. ACP Samuel Butler, officer in charge of Grand Bahama, was also in attendance and spoke briefly.
The ceremony, which was set for 3pm, was delayed for almost two hours awaiting the arrival of the minister and the police commissioner whose flight was delayed for three hours out of New Providence.
As always, the drills performed by the recruits and performance by the Royal Bahamas Police Force Band was a crowd pleaser. The recruits performed several drills, including a silent drill, and a fire demonstration.
The D Squad, which consisted of 28 men and six women, underwent six months of rigorous training in firefighting, and fire/arson investigative training. The Commandant Award for highest academic excellence went to Recruit Constable 4123 Danielle Hutchinson, and the Baton of Honour for best overall performance in all modules of training went to Recruit Constable 4132 Carlos Smith.
Commissioner Ferguson welcomed the recruits into the RBPF. He said that 23 of the recruits would be assigned to Fire Services in New Providence and the remaining 11 will be assigned to the new Fire Station at the Sir Albert J Miller Complex in Grand Bahama.
“I want to congratulate you on completing six long months of rigorous and comprehensive training,” he told them. Today marks the beginning of your firefighting career – a career you will find mentally and physically challenging at times, yet exciting and satisfying at the same time.”
Mr Ferguson said their primary responsibility as fire suppression officers and extrication technicians would be extinguishing fires, rescuing people, educating the public on how to prevent and extinguish fires, and investigations of fires by determining the source of fire, the cause of the damage, and providing a conclusion as to arson.
“Most of your experience will be gained on the job such as testing fire hydrants to ensure sufficient water supply, conducting fire drills, and inspecting businesses for hazards and enforcing building codes or safety standards, and knowing how to properly use and maintain safety equipment and fire appliances, or even perfecting response time on emergency calls to reduce damage,” he said.
Commissioner Ferguson encouraged the recruits to use the three Ls - look, listen, and learn – from their more experienced colleagues to better facilitate their transition at the Fire Services.
“Be proficient and professional when conducting your duties, and exercise good judgment, and remember your oath of office. Once you know these things you should have a long successful firefighting career,” Mr Ferguson told the recruits.
In addition to their training, Mr Ferguson also stressed the importance of being fit and noted that the implementation of a Get-Fit programme would improve the overall health and fitness of officers.
“This is why we ensured that the new Sir Albert J. Miller Complex was outfitted with a gym, and we reopened the police fitness centre in New Providence,” he explained.
The commissioner noted that a new control tactic and aerobic and fitness centre is also expected to be opened soon in NP.
National Security Minister Marvin Dames characterized the graduation of the Fire Squad as a special day not only for the 34 recruits, but also for residents of Grand Bahama.
“I would not have missed this occasion this evening, he said. These brave individuals known as D Squad 2018 make up a full Fire Squad and will be first fire squad to pass out from the RBPF in over a decade,” he said.
He noted that upon coming to office just over 18 months ago, the government committed to ensuring the safety and security of all Bahamians.
Mr Dames stated that earlier this year the Ministry of National Security completed a comprehensive manpower audit of the Police Force.
“We needed to determine as a matter of urgency what was required in the way of human resources to effectively operate stations and divisions throughout the nation, including GB,” he said.
The minister reported that the findings indicated that the RBPF recruitment rate was not keeping pace with its attrition rate.
He noted that the number of officers leaving the force whether, by retirement, resignation, death or otherwise was consistently higher than the number of officers being recruited.
Mr Dames revealed that the imbalance resulted in a manpower gap of 1,020 police officers throughout the ranks, inclusive of 71 fire officers.
“The audit found that to operate at an appropriate level the force needed approximately 791 constables. The audit further revealed that while approximately 500 or 18 percent of the force was stationed in GB, the island still needed 261 officers to operate at a suitable level, inclusive of 25 fire officers,” he explained.
Mr Dames said the government began to lay the physical framework to start resolving the shortages in the police force. He noted that the same would be done for other agencies that fall under the purview of his ministry, including the Royal Bahamas Defense Force and Her Majesty’s Correctional Department.
This fiscal year, he indicated that funding was approved for the first 134 recruits, 100 of whom would be completing training in New Providence next Thursday, and the 34 in Grand Bahama.
“This is just the first step, and I am happy to report that Cabinet very shortly will be looking into the recruitment of an additional 130 recruits during this fiscal period as funding has already been set aside for that number, and 30 of them will be trained in GB, for GB and the northern Bahamas,” he said.
Minister Dames said that based on the recommendations from the manpower audit, the government’s ultimate goal is to facilitate the rebranding of the RBPF with the strategic focus of developing a lean and purposeful agency able to effectively police in a robust society driven by technological advancements.