By Morgan Adderley
Tribune Staff Reporter
NATIONAL Security Minister Marvin Dames yesterday accused Official Opposition leader Philip “Brave” Davis of mounting an “all-out attack” on the Royal Bahamas Police Force in the wake of Mr Davis’ comments that the time has come for police to stop investigating police-involved killings.
Describing Mr Davis’ remarks as “disgraceful”, Mr Dames instead called for the PLP leader and his team to “start being an effective opposition”.
He went on to highlight the Minnis administration’s commitment to transparency and noted his ministry will be reinstating the Police Complaints Inspectorate “very shortly”.
Last week, police officers killed three men in a house on Newgate Road after they entered the property with a search warrant — a matter which has sparked national controversy. Police have said the men opened fire on them and that firearms and drugs were allegedly found in the home. However, some people who were in the home at the time have alleged the deceased did not shoot at police.
When asked to respond to Mr Davis’ call for the government to have independent body investigate this situation, Mr Dames accused Mr Davis of doing “absolutely nothing” while the latter served as deputy prime minister in the Christie administration.
“Independent company… did they do it while they were in office?” Mr Dames, pictured below, said.
“We’re constantly looking at ways to improve this area of policing. And we’re committed to that. Very shortly we will reinstituting the Police Inspectorate, who will begin looking at these matters and matters associated or where police officers are involved.
“But in addition to that, we’re constantly looking at ways whereby we can improve our level of service to the Bahamian people. We have nothing to hide,” he continued.
“And so Brave Davis continue to talk after the fact. He was deputy prime minister in the former government and did absolutely nothing. And now he and those of his colleagues have (begun) to mount an all-out attack on the officers of the (RBPF), which is disgraceful. We’re a government, we’re not in the business of taking up for anyone.
“We’re on the side of the Bahamian people…And so body cam is something that you will be seeing certainly this year. We’re reinstituting the Police Inspectorate which did not function under the former PLP government, despite their proclamations. And we will continue to look at other means to ensure that we bring the greatest level of transparency to all of our agencies.”
Mr Dames added police shootings are “unfortunate”, however he said it is “even more unfortunate when others decide to be judge and jury even before the matter is investigated and placed before a court of law”.
“The matter will be placed before the Coroner’s Court and let’s see what happens from there. I am concerned when the persons, and even so-called political leaders, get in front of a camera or before the press and begin to make allegations.”
Mr Dames also said in the last two years, this administration has conducted more training in the RBPF than was done in more than a decade. In this vein, he noted whenever a police officer pulls a weapon, the officer understands that they will be held accountable for this action.
“The police are focused on their investigations and I give you assurances that those investigations will be objective and they will be fair and they are working as quickly as possible to get the matter before the Coroner’s Court so that the public will an opportunity to hear the evidence and then the law will be able to…make a decision on that particular matter.
“All of us want to know the truth. All of us want to hear what transpired and how it happened. And all of us want to see this matter brought to a closure.”
Meanwhile activist group Rights Bahamas (RB) yesterday released a statement in support of Mr Davis’ call.
RB suggests a “reputable overseas private investigation company be engaged by the government” to investigate this and “all other cases like it”.
It said the company should be tasked with producing a detailed report of the incident after conducting a thorough investigation, and should report to the director of public prosecutions.
“Using a foreign entity is the best way to protect the interests of the officers, as well as the families of the deceased, from political interference,” the statement says.
Mr Dames also addressed conditions at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services on Fox Hill Road, following a report that a Bahamian pastor sentenced to more than two decades in prison for rape in Georgia said conditions at BDCS are inhumane, and thus requested to be extradited to the United States.
To this, Mr Dames acknowledged conditions at the prison need to be improved. However he reiterated that new Commissioner Charles Murphy has made “tremendous steps” in this direction.
“And I would say that over the last two years, we would have done more work at that institution than possibly ever before,” Mr Dames added. He also said during the former administration, the building’s roof was damaged during a hurricane and never fixed.
“This government has provided the funding and the work on that building which was significant has been finalised. There are other critical issues that are being addressed and monies have been set aside to effect the necessary repairs. And so ours is a government of action, not talk.”