POLICE poured hot sauce in a man’s eyes for a crime he was never charged with. That’s the allegation from Kenton Fines, who claims he was brutalised by officers he says searched his home without a warrant.
If something about that mention of hot sauce sounds familiar, you might remember an incident we reported in February 2019, when three people were reportedly bound and beaten by officers, as well as being fish-bagged, waterboarded and, yes, having hot sauce poured into their eyes.
When a police complaint was filed in that case, the complainants were told that too much time had passed for their case to be dealt with – even though they showed up right away at the first request from police. It was police that took too long to deal with it – not the complainants.
Readers of The Tribune will be familiar with claims of police brutality. At Junkanoo at the end of last year, for example, a video circulated showing police officers clubbing civilians with nightsticks. Another video showed a teenager being slammed on the ground by a police officer at Kendal GL Isaacs Gymnasium. There was a story in August 2019 of two women who claimed they were assaulted by police in Exuma. Another video in April 2019 showed an officer slapping a man on a beach. A month before that, The Tribune published photographs of a man being taken to an ambulance from the Central Detective Unit amid claims he was shocked with a taser and beaten by several officers while in custody.
The list has now been added to by the case of Kenton Files. You can – and should – read his story in today’s Insight.
Officers reportedly searched his home, found nothing, kicked him in the throat, threatened to water board him with ammonia, then later in the police station put a fish bag on his head filled with hot sauce… does this sound familiar?
Mr Fines reported the matter to the police complaints unit in February 2018 – he has seemingly never received a response to any of his letters other than an acknowledgement of the receipt of his complaint.
If this is true, this is not a police action, this is criminal behaviour. Anyone doing this is a criminal in uniform, and they demean the uniform they wear by their actions. Any officer tolerating such actions is betraying the force’s bond with the people of the nation. Let’s say this plainly, this kind of behaviour if true is torture, nothing less. It’s not just the kind of thing that should bring assault charges, it’s the kind of action that is banned internationally. If a soldier did this on the battlefield, he’d be charged with war crimes.
The failing is not just on the part of the officers who allegedly commit such atrocities. A failure by the police complaints unit to deal with cases such as these is completely unacceptable. For such an action to take place might be the fault of an individual officer, but for it not to be taken seriously and officers to be held accountable by the force shows a tacit acceptance of such tactics. This is not a one-off event, this is institutionalised brutality.
There should never be an occasion when officers resort to torture – whether someone is guilty or as in this case is never even charged. The question is, what will the force do to deal with such cases? To deal with such crimes?
Commissioner Paul Rolle promised change back in June of this year with regard to dealing with breaches of discipline. It’s about time we saw some.
Help for all
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis dangled a dream on Friday to those who don’t have their own homes.
Young professionals could buy land from the government for $50,000 that is worth $150,000. It will be Crown Land made available to give those young people a head start. They would also be able to build duty free. Dr Minnis said: “Crown Land is really the people’s land, it’s not individuals’, it’s the people and we just want to ensure that the people receive their land.”
We are sure those who can afford the $50,000 will be very thankful, but what about those who can’t?
It’s a head start indeed for those already able to put a foot on the ladder, but those who can’t still lag behind.
We don’t doubt this will be helpful to some – but we also need to keep finding a way to lift up those Bahamians who are most in need. What comes next for them, Dr Minnis?