By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
AS HE pledged to make public the findings of an investigation into allegations of police brutality in Exuma, National Security Minister Marvin Dames said there will be no “cover-up” if officers are found culpable of wrong doing.
He insisted there was evidence to confirm that in cases where officers are guilty of various offences, they are either charged in court or internally.
However, in instances where police conduct is called into question, the Royal Bahamas Police Force rarely reveals investigation findings, despite persistent questions from the media.
The latest claims of police beatings came earlier this week from two women in Exuma. They allege the brutality was at the hands of one of the most senior officers on the island.
This incident, Mr Dames said, is “very concerning”.
“We are where we are and we’ll continue to look at how we could improve the process and you can see when police officers or law enforcement officers do wrong the evidence is there to show,” Mr Dames said. “Then those persons are dealt with whether it’s before the courts or whether it’s done internally.
“The matter over the weekend is very concerning to me. I had the opportunity to speak to the commissioner as well as to see some of the social media postings of that. The commissioner moved very quickly.
“A team was dispatched to the island of Exuma and commenced investigations almost immediately and so we will see very shortly the end results of those investigations.”
He continued: “We’re not here to cover up for anybody and that will not be accepted, not in this force. Police officers, law enforcement officers have taken an oath to protect the citizens of this country and those who visit and we expect that they live up to that oath.
“No one is above the law whether you are in uniform or whether you are in public life. Nobody is above the law and where it is found out at the end of the day that persons whether they are law enforcement officers or public officials are in breach of the law, they will be treated like anyone else and I can assure you of that.”
Mr Dames said while the vast majority of officers are law-abiding citizens, the RBPF has no reservations with ensuring those who abuse authority are held accountable.
“Again we have had officers who were placed before the courts. We would have had officers who we would have placed before an internal tribunal and fired and in some instances demoted. It all depends on the evidence and if the matter is egregious enough then one would expect that that person or that officer would be placed before the courts.
“So again the commissioner and I would have spoken to this matter at length over the weekend and he and his officers are taking this very seriously. We will ensure that at the end of the day that justice prevails and so we all will be watching to see.”
Images of blood streaming from the gashed eyelid of one of the women who claim police abused her, Dejah Laing, 19, were shared hundreds of times on social media over the weekend, attracting the anger of horrified users. The women and their families are now demanding that the officer responsible be fired.
Ms Laing, mother of an 18-month-old baby, was travelling home from the Rolleville Homecoming Festival & Regatta around 4.30 on Sunday morning along with her two cousins, Aaliyah Bain, 20, and Samuel Humes, 26, when their day took a turn for the worst.
Mr Humes, the driver, said he was about to be ticketed when he told the senior officer his two cousins were in the car.
The women said they were initially taken to a police station cell, then to the clinic and then back to the station where they were interviewed, processed and allowed to leave without charge.
The trio were recently hired at Sandals Resort in Exuma and they fear the incident has disrupted their lives so much that they could lose their jobs.
These new allegations have revived questions of whether the government has prioritised the implementation of body cameras for police.
Mr Dames said a contract for the equipment was expected to be signed next month.
“We’re on schedule. Cabinet would have approved the body cams. We have funding for the body cams. We’re in the process now of finalising the contracts between the parties - that is the government and the vendor.
“. . .I’m hoping that sometime next month we should be signing off on that.
“The other contracts, I think the dates have already been set for the CCTV contract and the Marco’s Alert contracts. We are now satisfied with where we are with the contracts - all parties have accepted the contracts to date and it’s just a matter of signing and I think the signing date for both the CCTV and the body cams have been set and we’re working.”