By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
POLICE Commissioner Paul Rolle said yesterday he did not see the need to send additional manpower to help enforce the two-week lockdown on Grand Bahama, insisting there are more than enough officers on the island to police the COVID-19 measures.
His comments came after it was reported that several police officers on the island had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. The Tribune also understands that several others are also currently in quarantine.
Asked yesterday how many officers on the island had tested positive for the disease and were in quarantine, the police chief refrained from giving an answer.
“You would have to ask the health people. I don’t know...I ain’t getting into any of that,” he said.
With over 400 officers and police reserves currently on the island, Commissioner Rolle told reporters he did not believe more officers needed to be sent to assist with the enforcing of the COVID-19 measures.
“No, there is no need for that. I have 400 officers in Grand Bahama and 200 reserves. That’s more than sufficient.”
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced a two-week lockdown of the island, which begins today, after more than 60 cases were recorded there since the country re-opened its borders in early July.
All commercial and domestic flights and vessels have also been banned from entering the island except for those carrying essential goods and services.
Yesterday, Commissioner Rolle said he informed the relevant officials on Grand Bahama to ensure that the measures are being adhered to.
“The measures in Grand Bahama to police the lockdown will be the same here in Nassau. I’ve instructed the assistant commissioner and his team to put an operation in place to police the lockdown and to ensure that persons comply with it,” he told reporters.
According to the police chief, over 1,000 people have been arrested for curfew violations since the prime minister’s COVID-19 orders were implemented in March.
He said: “There (were) 1,099 breaches of the emergency orders itself and another 500 but overall it’s like 1,500 persons or matters that we dealt with so there were 1,070 breaches to the emergency curfew orders and 440 breaches to the other sections of the COVID-19 emergency orders during that period.”
The police chief said while a majority of Bahamians “have been cooperative” with most restrictions, officials have noticed more people not adhering to the social distancing guidelines.
During the crisis, there have been heightened calls for police to use their discretion when enforcing the COVID-19 orders.
Since the emergency orders were implemented in March, a number of homeless people have been convicted of violating the COVID-19 curfew. Some residents have also complained about police stopping them in their cars and telling them to wear their masks, contrary to the prime’s minster orders.
Asked about the issue yesterday, the police chief said the situations like those could be a “miscommunication”.
He said: “I sent out guidance to the officers that if you are in public, you should be wearing your masks. If you are in your cars driving by yourself, I don’t see the need to wear your masks but when I step out and if that happens just bring it to our attention and we will address it. It could be a miscommunication.”
He was also firm that police will not stop doing their duties to uphold the law.
“The commissioner of police is answerable to the law and if the law says that curfew starts at 8 o’clock then that’s 8 o’clock. However, we do have a little bit of discretion that we can exercise,” he noted.
“And that discretion comes with if when you stop an individual and the individual is going to give you an explanation. Well, then you have to determine whether you’re going to accept that explanation or not.
“The officers, we’ve been very co-operative in understanding members of the public but there will always be those who criticise (because) they didn’t get it their way. But I’m satisfied that the RBPF did an excellent job.”