IT feels like we are not being told the full story when it comes to police officers being put on leave.
In March, it was revealed that the first three top police officers – Deputy Commissioner of Police Emrick Seymour, Senior Assistant Commissioner Stephen Dean and Assistant Commissioner of Police Clarence Reckley – were being ordered to take their vacation time as pre-retirement leave.
Not long after, five more officers were reported to have received notice to take accrued vacation leave immediately – bringing the total number of senior officers on pre-retirement leave to eight, and with the prospect of more to come.
Opposition leader Philip “Brave” Davis demanded the government be more transparent about the departures, while Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis effectively shrugged when asked, saying he didn’t know what the big deal was.
Then, in today’s Tribune, we have a new twist. Five of those eight officers will be coming back to duty when their leave ends.
In the meantime, those five will be on holiday – the first of them returning in January next year while others staying on leave late into 2020.
Senior figures in government – from National Security Minister Marvin Dames to the prime minister himself – had ample opportunity to note that those five officers would be returning, and yet did not say a word, until yesterday.
To say that some of the officers caught up in this directive to use up outstanding leave have been upset is an understatement.
Senior ACP Dean spoke out, saying: “It hurt. I wanted it to be done with more respect… we sacrificed a lot for our organisations.”
It’s true. As murder rates spiked, the cry was always that there would be more officers on the streets. After one violent weekend in February this year, Superintendent Shanta Knowles talked of the strategy the police have operated recently, saying: “We have flooded the streets with all available vehicles and manpower and those will continue.”
That use of manpower comes at a cost in extra shifts, in officers delaying leave in order to fight crime. That builds up leave time.
Now some of those very officers closely involved in that fight find themselves told to go away and come back next year.
As attorney Wayne Munroe says, that kind of break in your career is unusual to say the least. Whatever your job, imagine being told to leave and not come back for up to two years – how do you think that would affect your career prospects in that job or your sense of part of the team?
All in all, it feels as if the government has backtracked on their original plans – or just didn’t feel the need to tell us all when they had the opportunity.
Caught in the middle of this are the officers themselves – with more officers yet to be told, if Mr Dames is to be believed, when he says others will be going on leave too.
Beyond that there is the organisation itself, which will have to continue to function effectively despite a sudden crackdown that would presumably eventually require vast swathes of the force to take leave that has built up.
We all hope that will not endanger any progress made in reducing the level of violent crime.
Mr Dames continues to cloud the issue, refusing yesterday to talk about other officers due to go on leave because he didn’t want to talk about “personalities”.
Which leaves us in the position of agreeing with Brave Davis. The government should indeed be more transparent – not least of all for the sake of the officers protecting us.