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New Law Would Transform The Royal Bahamas Police Force

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"The most fundamental change in the Police Act is the under girding philosophy that says that if the police are to be effective in what they do, they must first recognize that they are providing a service,"

By Candia Dames


Nassau, Bahamas

20 October 2005





Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Security Cynthia Pratt on Wednesday introduced the Police Service Bill to the House of Assembly which would, among other things, make the force more accountable and would require the commissioner of police to make annual reports on the direction of the force.


Minister Pratt said the changes that are prescribed in what would be known as the Police Service Act reflect best policing practices around the world.


"The most fundamental change in the Police Act is the under girding philosophy that says that if the police are to be effective in what they do, they must first recognize that they are providing a service," she said.


"This is a significant departure from the prescriptions in the Extant Act. The process of becoming a service-oriented institution requires a paradigm shift in the ethos of the institution to reflect the philosophy that effective policing depends on the cooperation and partnership of the police and community."


The Police Services Act is being viewed as the centerpiece of reforms in the police department, which started back in 1999 under the former administration, which contracted a firm out of London to conduct a strategic review of the Police Force with a view to modernizing it.


"The modern police department must be characterized by its emphasis on service, openness, transparency and accountability to the Bahamian people," Minister Pratt said.


Outlining the important aspects of the draft Police Service Bill, she noted that Section 3 seeks to change the name of the Royal Bahamas Police Force to the Royal Bahamas Police Service.


The deputy prime minister said the name change is more than symbolic.


"It embodies the fundamental cultural shift of the organization’s objective to provide a service to the Bahamian people without invocation of fear, of force or authority," she said.


"This theme of service and contract with the Bahamian people permeates the draft bill. For example, the bill requires at Section 7 that the commissioner of police, on an annual basis, prepare a policing plan of the service’s priorities for the year, the financial and human resources expected to be available and of the broad allocation of such resources.


"Built into the plan are specific performance indicators by which the public can measure the effectiveness of the police."


Section 8 states that within three months after the end of each financial year, the commissioner is to prepare an annual report relating to the policing of The Bahamas. There is also a requirement that this report is laid before parliament.


Minister Pratt said, "These two sections undoubtedly will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of police resources and operations by making the commissioner and the service more accountable for the performance of the service and the appropriate use of resources."


She also pointed out that the draft bill includes provisions for international inspection and review of the service.


Section 63 states that the deputy commissioner shall be the internal inspector of the service, inspecting and reviewing each branch of the service. Section 64 also provides for the appointment of an external inspector whose function shall be to report to the minister on the efficiency and effectiveness of the management of the service.


Further, Section 110 allows for regulations to be made for the establishment of panels of lay visitors to visit and examine detained persons – and Section 57 mandates that every police officer must provide all reasonable and lawful assistance to such persons.


"The idea, Mr. Speaker, is to create a more open and accountable attitude by the service in the manner in which the service treats detained persons," Minister Pratt said.


The Act would also require the police to be more responsive to complaints made against officers.


"This is an area that goes to the very core of trust and credibility in the organization," Minister Pratt said.


"The people must believe that their complaints against the police will be investigated and treated seriously and those found culpable made to pay for their heavy handedness."


In this regard, Section 79 provides for the appointment of a civilian body known as the Police Complaints Inspectorate, whose duties would include the review and investigation and determination of a complaint.


The deputy prime minister said this is a significant provision, both for police officers and the public.


"It is important because for the first time an independent and legally qualified person would be involved in the process of resolving complaints in a timely manner," she said.


Minister Pratt pointed out that the draft legislation is also "very progressive" in respect to improved benefits and conditions of police officers.


For example, it provides for improved pensions to be paid to dependents of officers killed in the line of duty.


It also provides for officers injured in the course of employment a pension granted in lieu of gratuity and provides for compensation for permanent partial disablement and full pension for total disablement.


Additionally, it provides for the state assistance in the provision of free education for the children of officers killed in the line of duty up to the tertiary level in The Bahamas.


The deputy prime minister said, "These provisions, Mr. Speaker, should be considered in the context of a general improvement of benefits to law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe.


"In this regard, I can say, Mr. Speaker, that the new medical insurance initiative agreed by the government is about to go out to tender within the next week."


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