0

‘Police Beat Suspects? Ridiculous’

photo

Ex-officer Bernard Swann.

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

A FORMER police officer’s claim that for decades the Royal Bahamas Police Force has falsified reports, beaten suspects for confessions and sent innocent people to prison was denounced by National Security Minister Marvin Dames and Police Commissioner Anthony Ferguson.

Mr Dames said the former officer, Bernard Swann, was never an investigator and lacks the credibility to discuss the investigative tactics of the RBPF. He said the man served in the 1980s to his knowledge. Commissioner Ferguson, insisting officers do not falsify reports, said he has nonetheless dispatched a team to investigate the matter. 

Mr Swann made his comments in a recording which were circulated on WhatsApp and Facebook. He told The Tribune he has received numerous threats since the recording went viral and he referred this newspaper to his lawyer, Wayne Munroe, rather than elaborate on the claims himself.

He said in the recording: “. . . Let me be straight up with you, you and I are both former police officers. Don’t try to tell none of these naive people in this chat that your hands clean because that’s (expletive) nonsense. You send people to jail because you fix reports, I know I did.

photo

Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson. File Photo: Terrel W Carey/Tribune Staff

“When my partners wanted to send people to jail and they didn’t do their proper investigation, we lied to cover and people went to prison,” he claimed. “You did it and I did it and ain’ a single police officer in this job today or in our history who didn’t do that. Don’t come here talking that nonsense ‘bout your integrity…what integrity?

“Where you get integrity from? Ain’ no police officer get no integrity. They lie and send people to jail all the time. We do it all the time. We beat people, force the confessions, go to court lie and send them to jail. I don’t know who you think you talking to but 1414 was my number, Bernard Swann is my name, I used to work in radio and transport in the echoes, every shift we had competition among ourselves, somebody got to go to jail.”

Mr Dames called the allegation of continuous falsifying of reports “ridiculous” and said the voice note shows the danger of social media. 

photo

Minister of National Security Marvin Dames. Photo: Terrel W. Carey Sr/Tribune Staff

“As far as I’m aware this person may have served sometime over the early ‘80s and certainly before my time in the organisation,” he told reporters. “I never knew of him and from speaking to persons (he wasn’t) any investigator. He cannot be speaking for the force I know and that many distinguished men and women who would’ve passed through it know. He may have been speaking for himself. To make such a general statement like that really speaks to maybe the person that he is.”

Commissioner Ferguson said: “I heard the voice note and I’ve intended to dispatch a team to conduct an investigation into it. I’d be interested in knowing what it is that he really is saying to see if there is any truth to it. There’s no reason that you would find a sensible individual falsifying a report to send someone to prison.

“Don’t get carried away by someone waking up one morning and making a statement. Investigations that come from the Royal Bahamas Police Force are very thorough. A lot of those investigations comes from police and goes to the Attorney General’s Office and the evidence is overwhelming and you would see the results from court. A person in defence of themselves is free to make any allegation they want to make, you cannot stop them, but the police is very thorough in their investigations.”

Not only are allegations of forced confessions common but courts have also sometimes found them to be merited. Just last month the Court of Appeal overturned a man’s armed robbery conviction and sentencing after appellate judges determined that police beat the man to force a confession, making the evidence acquired because of that confession inadmissible.

Justice Jon Isaacs wrote in the ruling that the trial judge could have “harboured no doubt about the reliability of the appellant’s allegations of abuse” because there was “ample evidence of injuries he received while in custody.”

In February, The Tribune reported on the lawsuit of three people in Eleuthera who claim they were tortured for armed robbery confessions before they were released without charge. The trio claim they were ‘fish bagged’ until they could not breathe. One of them claims police poured hot sauce into his eye for which he continues to suffer debilitating effects. Their lawsuits are pending. 

Also in February, Shavar Bain, a man whose son was kidnapped, alleged police tortured him to confess that he played a role in his own son’s kidnapping. Mr Bain was released from custody without charge.

In March, attorney Christina Galanos recorded and released a four-second video showing her client bent over in distress and being taken into an ambulance outside the Central Detective Unit after he was allegedly beaten to force a confession. Many defence lawyers, and even some top legal officials in previous administrations, have told The Tribune in the last six months that torture for confessions is a genuine problem in the Bahamian justice system. 

For his part, Mr Munroe said rather than be treated as compelling news, Mr Swann’s voice note should spark a conversation about authorities’ failure to adequately protect the public from police misconduct. 

“We’ve had judgements to say that police beat confessions out of people so why is someone saying they do it so surprising?” he said. “We’ve gotten judgements with damages for people who say police have beaten them. We’ve had cases where Supreme Court judges have rejected police evidence as concocted, same thing at the Court of Appeal, same thing with the Privy Council, so why is this surprising, unless we’ve been asleep all this time?

“If we want to focus on beatings, the important questions are how far along are they with their body cameras and are we using technology the way they should be used? If you want to address beatings for confessions, I wouldn’t be focusing on what Swann said, I would be asking the minister why is it that we don’t videotape all interviews in custody?” 

Police often interview suspects on camera but much to the chagrin of defence lawyers, the interrogation process prior to the interview is not filmed. 

Mr Swann’s comment prompted activist group Rights Bahamas to demand an investigation even if it means establishing a Commission of Inquiry.

“If even some of the claims by the former officer in question are true, the consequences are truly terrifying,” the group said in a statement. “Furthermore, considering his insistence that such grossly fraudulent policing has been the norm for years, the officer in question should be extensively interrogated by the Attorney General’s Office and the director of public prosecutions with a view to identifying other officers who may have also committed such heinous acts. We stress that this is a matter of grave significance; the officer is taking about a widespread conspiracy to deprive innocent people of their liberty by officers of the state.

“This must be investigated vigorously and comprehensively and the chips must be allowed to fall where they may. If it means bringing in foreign investigators to ensure objective, so be it. If what this officer says is true, the matter easily qualifies as worthy of a Commission of Inquiry.”

Comments

mandela 1 year, 4 months ago

Hmm! where there's smoke, there's fire,

0

Telllikeitis 1 year, 4 months ago

I call on all former officers and persons on the receiving end of the described type of treatment to speak out now and let this be the beginning of a movement for real change in the way interrogations are done.

2

TheMadHatter 1 year, 4 months ago

Bahamians by and large have the attitude that "people in prison deserve whatever they get there" and also "a prison should not be a five star hotel".

If the guy's allegations are true, and i say IF, then it is only a symptom of politicians' desire to satisfy the barbaric insticts of their constituents. That's how they get votes. That's democracy.

0

zephyr 1 year, 4 months ago

Bernard Swann deserves to be arrested as he has publicaly admitted to committing crimes as a police officer...

1

ThisIsOurs 1 year, 4 months ago

I knew of someone years ago who was detained by police for using street justice on a person involved in a domestic violence incident. I didnt condone the domestic violence or the vigilante retribution. The person they attacked was considered to be an upstanding citizen. The police beat that vigilante silly.

"Dames said the former officer, Bernard Swann, was never an investigator and lacks the credibility "

If funny business is going on, even the janitor in the organization know.

0

John 1 year, 4 months ago

Marvin Dames recently conducted a home invasion where every adult male occupant in site was killed by police. And despite police reports that the men were shooting at them, other eyewitnesses say the men were either sleeping, hiding or begging for their lives. And because they were masked, some feel that some of the police may not even be Bahamian. So will it take an incident where one is injured or fatally shot to confirm that foreign police are active on the Bahamas police force? Can Marvin Dames confirm or deny that there are foreign officers working on the police force? And from which country are they from? then there was the young man who was on his way to work, but was shot 18 times by a police officer and nothing has been done about it. And not to forget the male tourist who was slapped by a police officer downtown. Or the young man on Prince Charles who was knocked off his bike and had his tooth punched out by police officers. And then there is the missing Marvin Smith from Gambier who allegedly went missing while in the hands of police and has still not been found. And many young men will tell you they fear the police more than rival gangs because they pick them up, beat them, then lock them up for no apparent reason. So cheaper Meltdown Marvin fess up or shut up. No one believes him. Seems strange that no one from government seems to be reaching out to young men and trying to curb the from crime and gang avivity. Getting them jobs or career opportunities and trying to get them back to living as productive, law abiding citizens. Why is the 'us vs them' war still going on rather than trying to bring the prodigal sons back home..ALIVE!

1

TalRussell 1 year, 4 months ago

I guess since there are no recorded on film audio tapping of police interrogations available populace review for they selves, the comrade minister can seek refuge with his pronouncements that all has always been, is, well within ranks policeman's encounters populaces, yes, no..... how far back does it go, might do minister some educational good review conduct between policeman's and former King of England's conduct during his tenure as Colony of Out Islands governor-general following the murder Sir Harry Oakes, yes, no................

0

concernedcitizen 1 year, 4 months ago

In our country we are trained from childhood to solve conflict with physical force ..Please don,t insult me and say the problem is we don,t whup kids anymore , we whip the snot out of them .I see it daily ,,usually the parent yelling at them first , "if you don stop that I ga cut ya ass " and then the angry parent inflicting some form of physical abuse . How come the countries where hitting a child is outlawed , the Nordic countries , have the lowest violent crime levels and homicide rate ..We have a homicide rate like a war zone , and no @john it is not the U S fault or the CIA ..We are beating the snot out of kids under the guise of spare the rod and creating an ever more violent society that solves even minor conflicts w physical force

0

John 1 year, 4 months ago

Maybe we learnt that from our slave masters. To brutalize and torture our children And when beatings were not successful massa (your forefathers concerned citizen) resorted breaking up the family mercilessly and without emotion selling them like a farm crop but with despise, then to lynchings and hangings. I’m sure your rember massa. Sir, yess Sir! Das wat your forefathers done did!

0

Well_mudda_take_sic 1 year, 4 months ago

Dames and Ferguson are the only two fools to claim they don't know what shanigans and brutality usually goes on to get a conviction to help them achieve the kind of statistics they like to tout.

1

sheeprunner12 1 year, 4 months ago

Which Police Department in the world has not done the things that are in the recording??????? .......... Black, White and Chinese police do it.

0

Well_mudda_take_sic 1 year, 4 months ago

So what's your point? Is it that they do it so why don't we do it? LMAO

0

DontAssume 1 year, 4 months ago

Without a shadow of a doubt this former officer is speaking to what HE knows—acts he has committed, incidents which he may be aware of; but, he can’t generalize his illegal behavior as a law enforcement officer and that of other misfits, and assert it as the norm. I am a former police officer and never falsified a report nor sent an innocent individual to prison…and I only speak for myself but must trust that there are other honorable officers (past and present) like myself. I will never make excuses for, nor do I condone illegal behavior by law enforcement…no matter how difficult and lawless the populace it is sworn to serve and protect may be, and the majority of the Bahamian populace is lawless (illegal appropriation, white/blue color and serious crimes, as well as traffic offenses). The narrative from the public and criminal element will always portray law enforcement poorly; however, most of us, are never honest with what the problem truly is, which is our lawlessness as a nation. Where this lawlessness stems from is debatable but curtailing and eradicating the bulk of this lawless behavior is imperative in regaining a little control on crime in our country. No organization is free of misfits and unsavory characters, but I do have faith that our police force is not as lawless as our general population—because if you believe this gentleman’s statements and attributed to all of our police officers (past and present), no professional policing is done…which is unequivocally not true.

0

ThisIsOurs 1 year, 4 months ago

Be assured that we know you exist. "Honest policeman". But we also know that the police force is like many organizations, the bullies commit infractions and nobody says anything because they don't want to become the target. Management looks the other way because they don't want the stress. They asked the officer IN CHARGE what happened to that prisoner they had to call an ambulance for and he said he didn't know. That's beyond the bounds of anything honest or believable

1

concernedcitizen 1 year, 4 months ago

The police , the politicians etc represent our values and behavior .They are us and came from us they are not some sub set of people culled from another place or planet .If out of 100 Bahamians 30 are dishonest and lean toward violence you will have the same thing on the force .Actually we have been trained since we are small children to solve problems w physical force .Please don't insult me and say the problem is we don whup kids anymore .I see it everyday ,it starts w the parent sayin ,"if you don,t stop it I ga cut your hip " and progresses to the angry parent inflicting some form of physical abuse . Why do the Nordic countries where hitting children or spanking is frowned upon and against the law have the lowest rates of homicide and violent crime ??

0

ThisIsOurs 1 year, 4 months ago

Well the first part of your statement is exactly my point. I said "the police force is like every other organization"

0

DontAssume 1 year, 4 months ago

I absolutely agree with you there are "bullies/misfits/criminals" and as ConcernedCitizen stated the Police Force like other government organizations, as well as private entities, is a microcosm of our society--In my opinion, the bulk of the Bahamian populace is law defiant. So, of course, there will be lawless individuals as members of law enforcement. My problem with this guy's comments is that it fuels an erroneous narrative because of its a generalized statement/accusation and not an opinion--he asserts that because he and some others he knew did foolishness that all did/does.

0

ThisIsOurs 1 year, 4 months ago

Sure. The same thing happens in school and on job sites. Its never the case that every single person in the class is bullying a student. Its one or 2 students, the rest watch for entertainment or stay out the way glad its not them.

I had an individual on the defence force tell me years ago that they would round up jonsers for their "regular beatings" and of course the official objective was "cleaning up the streets". This was described as an entertainment activity for the officers. Marvin Dames knows just what's going on, he is going out of his way not to uncover actual evidence.

0

242Queens 1 year, 4 months ago

A few years ago my now fiance was severely beaten on the accusations that my neighbour 'Thought' she knew. The officer dealing with this matter at that time was my neighbour's son. And he had a high ranking position on the police force and he told us that he would make it his personal business to see that my fiance goes to jail at any cost , "as long as he was Superintendent of the Royal Bahamas Police force" he said. He made threats to myself and our family and whenever he came to visit his mother, "our neighbour" he would laugh at my fiances demise because he was beaten, tourtured and sent to prison without bail. This then Superintendent sent his personal friends who were also working at CID at that time,to come into my home and remove items that they claimed belonged to the said neighbour, items that i went back to the station to get back with sufficient id's and receipts and i never got my items back that they stole from me. This Superintendent, also friends with the prosecutions lawyer, tried their best to bribe my fiance to lie on himself and threatened him not to speak about any of the police abuse that happened in court. I paid for a very good lawer who exposed everything to the court and because of the insufficient evidence and the actual perpertrater turning himself in, my fiance was released and all charges were dropped. I reported the superintendent to the corruptions department and after many years he was just recently retired . I never got my belongings back from CID and my fiance now has many scars from the beatings both mentally and physically about the body. My neighbour's Son still comes around to hail his mother and walks past us like nothing ever happened, no apology no nothing. My fiance went through hell and back for nothing and i have but one picture in our album as a reminder of how corrupt the police force can truely be.

1

The_Oracle 1 year, 4 months ago

Just spoke with a young man i've known for decades, was arrested and detained for 3 months for breaking into his Mothers bar/rest. He opens and closes the place for her. His prints were the only basis for his arrest. Charges were dropped, but he spent 3 months in fox hill and lost two cell phones to the Police....... At least he lived through the ordeal, thankfully.

0

proudloudandfnm 1 year, 4 months ago

It's common knowledge cops beat suspects past and present. Yet someone makes a public statement to that affect and boom our politicians all up in arms... lol...

Yes of course cops beat suspects, I've seen it with my own eyes on our streets a number of times.

Instead of making stupid statements saying it doesn't happen get off ya ass and do something about it... sheesh.....

0

Sign in to comment