By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
AFTER a brief handover ceremony at Police Headquarters yesterday, Paul Rolle was sworn in as the newest commissioner of the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
Commissioner Rolle vowed to discharge his constitutional duties without fear, favour or influence. He noted public concern about the “minority of officers” who abuse their power, saying he and his leadership team will continue to investigate such complaints, taking firm and fair action where needed.
The ceremony, which had a handful of guests due to the country’s 24-hour curfew and social distancing policies, was attended by Governor General CA Smith, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames and the wives of the outgoing and incoming commissioners.
Dr Minnis promised to have a more elaborate ceremony and reception when the country relaxes the restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We shall discharge our duties with courage, integrity and loyalty, being ever mindful of the changing environment with willingness to embrace just criticism and need for change,” Commissioner Rolle said of the force. “We solicit the continued support of the public, partnership and cooperation, as we seek to fulfill our mandate to keep all safe. The police cannot do this alone. We must all accept responsibility to cooperate with the police. In the words of Sir Robert Field, ‘The police are the public and the public are the police.’
“I am immensely conscious of public concern over the manner in which a minority of officers abuse their authority or perform their duties in an unprofessional way. I will, along with my senior executive leadership team, continue to monitor complaints and will take fair, firm and decisive actions where there are grounds to take disciplinary actions against any officer or member of the force. None of us are above the law and we must all be accountable for our actions.”
The new commissioner promised to fight the illegal gun and drug trades, as well as white collar crimes.
“Your Excellency we remain concerned for the proliferation of illegal firearms and the high level of gun crimes in our communities,” Commissioner Rolle said. “We have also taken note of the stubborn illicit drug trade which has existed in many different forms over the years. It is fueling much of the gun violence through criminal gangs and criminal enterprises which have taken the lives of far too many of our young men. The police will continue to serve and foster productive partnerships, nationally, regionally and internationally. Such partnerships are fundamental to our success, but citizens and residents must take responsibility for this carnage and work towards stopping it.
“Financial crimes such as fraud and embezzlement and identity theft, have been a pivotal issue in the global arena for decades. While authorities are constantly looking for ways to track down and prevent financial crimes, criminals are always developing innovative tactics in order to stay ahead. This continues to be of grave concern to law enforcement. We are equally concerned about laundering the proceeds of crime.”
For his part, Dr Minnis thanked outgoing Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson for his time leading the force.
“Commissioner Ferguson, a grateful nation thanks you for your leadership and stewardship of the Royal Bahamas Police Force,” Dr Minnis said. “We wish you well in your retirement and I offer you my gratitude and best wishes.
“Incoming Commissioner Rolle knows the force well, having served in a number of capacities including leadership within the CDU, the Police Training Academy and the Anti-Corruption Unit. “Your great task is to continue the work of reducing crime in our country, including through the use of policing measures and technologies that will help to prevent crime.”
Dr Minnis noted the new commissioner takes over at a pivotal time in the country’s history.
“You assume command during a national emergency that will require great leadership, sensitivity and unity of purpose and command,” Dr Minnis said.
“The country is looking to you and to the good men and women of the Royal Bahamas Police Force to help enforce our laws and the temporary emergency measures that will help us to combat the COVID-19 threat. I wish you well in your new command. You have my full support and that of the government of The Bahamas.”
Commissioner Rolle joined the RBPF in May 1983, his first assignment being the Southern Police Station. He previously was officer-in-charge of the Central Detective Unit. He was promoted to chief superintendent in 2014, and remained at CDU until 2016. During his tenure as officer-in-charge of CDU, he was instrumental in leading the successful conclusion of many serious criminal investigations and placing in excess of 2,400 cases before the Supreme Courts. In 2017, he was promoted to assistant commissioner and assigned the portfolio for anti- corruption. He was tasked with setting up and establishing the newly designated Anti-Corruption Unit.
The new police chief commended the officers, reservists and civilians he is privileged to lead.
He also praised his predecessor. “Commissioner Anthony Ferguson, you are my contemporary and confidant. We came through the ranks together – corporal, sergeant, inspector, ASP and then you pulled out and left me but I wouldn’t let you go far and I eventually served as your unexpected protégé in your cabinet. You have given me guidance and advice over the years. As you say farewell to this noble organisation today, I say a huge thank you publicly. May God bless you and keep you as you move on in your new endeavours.”
The outgoing commissioner said he felt it was just like yesterday when he became police chief. “I truly believe it is not the length of your service, but your legacy and the impact you made that counts,” Commissioner Ferguson said just before the handover.
He thanked Dr Minnis and Mr Dames for their support during his tenure.
He boasted of the transformation of the Police College, the reduction in the murder rate and the renovation of police stations which all came under his tenure. The outgoing commissioner joined the RBPF in 1980.