THERE are things that should not happen in a modern democracy.
On Friday night, members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force opened fire on a man and killed him. Then they told no one about it.
Jamal Frazer Bodie lost his job earlier this year as a result of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. He told his fiancée he was going to the park to see someone about a job. He never came home.
Police last night – days after the shooting – released a statement to say that officers had a report of a man with a suspected illegal firearm. They approached Jamal and, as they were about to confront him, officers say he pulled a firearm from his waist and pointed it at police. The officers opened fire, injuring him, and he later died of his injuries in hospital.
The details of the incident itself remain to be investigated. Jamal’s mother says a witness told her that Jamal had his hands in the air when he was shot. She says he is not a bad person. His fiancée says Jamal would “give his last for anyone”.
At this time, we don’t know exactly how those final moments of Jamal’s life came to pass.
What we do know is that officers shot and killed a citizen, and then the police force did not tell the public.
There was no notification to the media about the shooting on Friday, even though the media is routinely alerted to all manner of shootings. As readers, you know the number of times you have seen photographs taken by our staff from the scene of a crime, and articles from our reporters speaking to people in the aftermath.
On Saturday, there was no comment from police. Nor on Sunday. The Tribune, by this stage, was investigating ourselves, asking the police for a statement about the incident. One was promised, but it never appeared.
It took The Tribune calling the Minister of National Security for answers to prompt action. After that, the Commissioner of Police spoke up and the statement detailing what police said happened finally appeared.
The Commissioner, Paul Rolle, apologised for a “miscommunication”, saying that he thought the statement had been released earlier, and saying that “there was no attempt to hide anything”. That would require more than one miscommunication – firstly the lack of notification of an incident on the night, followed by the subsequent days. At no point did Commissioner Rolle think something was unusual with the absence of follow up questions from the press? Indeed, as The Tribune was asking questions, what was the explanation for the continued miscommunication from that point? Was the short statement that came out in the end all that was ever intended to explain a police shooting to the public? Should such an incident be brushed off so easily?
It’s not just a matter of not telling the media – more crucially, the family of the man who was shot also were not informed by police. When they approached the police, they say they had difficulties trying to get information.
This cannot be right. There cannot be an officer-involved shooting and it take days for the force to reveal what happened. A family cannot be left in grief with no explanation of what happened to their loved one.
More than with any other incident, one that involves police officers should be in public view. To show the integrity of the investigation, the force should be forthcoming with what took place. If the force is not transparent about incidents that involves its officers, it casts a cloud on the investigation itself. The officers may have been completely justified in defending themselves – but the failure to be forthcoming reeks of a secret police, or at least one that doesn’t respect the people it serves.
Police killed a man and didn’t tell anyone. This must never be acceptable.
Taxes are on the rise. That’s the warning from the president of Fidelity Bank, Gregory Bethel, who told Bahamians to plan for “grim economic times” and cautioned about the “price to be paid” for deficit spending.
It shouldn’t come a surprise. Here in this column we have said it simply before too – the bills that are being run up now between COVID-19 relief and the downturn in revenue will have to be paid in future.
Mr Bethel said that “up to 60,000 Bahamians suffered loss of income”. Meanwhile, tourists aren’t coming back in a hurry. Add on the stories of bills going unpaid at the likes of BPL and it’s plain to see the crisis we’re in.
Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest hopes that the country can grow its way out of any post-pandemic woes, having been repeatedly asked by this paper about taxation. Mr Bethel paints a bleaker picture.
Who will be right? Only the future will tell – but in the meantime, we should prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.