FAIRNESS is on the mind of Police Commissioner Anthony Ferguson.
“You have to be fair,” he said, talking about the process by which the public raise concerns through the Complaints and Corruption Unit.
The fairness he is talking about is made clear as he goes on.
“You have to be fair to people who complaints are made (against)… the question I will ask is wouldn’t you want someone to be fair with you if somebody is accusing you of something?”
The answer, of course, is yes. But the question remains whether or not the force is being fair to both sides – the accuser and the accused.
Last month, we reported on three people who claimed they were tortured by police in Eleuthera.
The stories were shocking. The three – two men and one women – said they were bound and beaten, had a fishbag put over their heads, there were claims of waterboarding. One claimed hot sauce was poured into his eyes.
The three were innocent of any crime, and after being released without charge they filed formal complaints at the Complaints and Corruption Unit.
For more than a year, they heard nothing. Not a word. So they took the next step and are pursuing their case in court.
Lo and behold, after their story went public, the police called them in to discuss their complaint – only to be told that the time had expired in which it could be addressed by the force.
This was the first they had heard back from the police – only to be told that it was too late to do anything about it.
Now how is that fair, Commissioner?
There is genuine concern the police force does not handle complaints even-handedly, from the case in Eleuthera to the ongoing case reported again today about the case of Marvin Pratt, missing since family say he was detained by police while officers collectively shrug and say his disappearance is nothing to do with the force.
And the news reported in the US State Department’s report on The Bahamas that the civilian organisation intended to investigate complaints against police officers – the Police Complaints Inspectorate – hasn’t met in a year and half with National Security Minister seemingly not appointing anyone to the office only furthers those concerns.
We all want fairness – but the fairness must be to both sides.
The Commissioner says he wants the same, saying “we’ll continue to be fair to all persons who make reports and all persons who the reports are made against”.
That being the case, we hope an investigation is already underway as to why the three complainants in Eleuthera were left high and dry, and that the force is already reaching out to them to explain what went wrong with the process there.
Anything less would not be fair.
Commissioner Ferguson was also keen yesterday to reassure the public over the spate of recent child abductions, insisting the force had the situation “under hand”.
He said that three of the cases are being considered as kidnappings – though did not specify which ones – and insisting the force is following significant leads.
That contrasts somewhat with what police said on Sunday, when Inspector Leonardo Burrows said they weren’t following any other leads other than appealing to the public.
We sincerely hope significant progress has been made since Sunday and parents might soon be made to feel at ease rather than worrying about the presence of a triple child kidnapper in our midst – and that Commissioner Ferguson’s officers will live up to his words.