Dames: No resistance to police body-worn cams

Dames: No resistance to police body-worn cams
Minister of National Security Marvin Dames (file photo)

Body-worn cameras and dash cams to rollout by August

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of National Security Marvin Dames yesterday rejected assertions the Royal Bahamas Police force was reluctant to implement body-worn cameras, telling Eyewitness News nothing could be further from the truth.

Attorney Wayne Munroe, QC, suggested the government has yet to rollout of body-worn and dash cameras for the Royal Bahamas Police Force due to the resistance of the organization in opening itself up to more public scrutiny,

“What is this training? Isn’t this just a camera that’s attached to the vest and turned on and turned off and while are y’all training officers how to turn off these cameras,” Munroe told Eyewitness News.

“How hard is it to train someone on how to turn on the camera and go?

”They use these terms ‘training’, these generalized words. As a rule, you should always ask what training are we talking about and what is it for. We ought to know what this training is that is holding up this very vital instrument for accountability.”

Responding to questions from Eyewitness News, Dames said the government and police force have been keen to implement the technology in its effort to offer more transparency into the organization, but challenges arose out of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Absolutely not,” said Dames, when asked whether there was resistance to the implementation of the equipment.

“We’re on schedule. As you know we started the beginning of the year in COVID and that may have impacted some of the timelines.

“But in respect to all of our rollouts, we have timelines and dates of implementation, and we’re on schedule with this.

“There may have been a slight delay due to COVID, but we’re still moving according to plan.

“And it is a government police, as you know.

“We would have articulated it in our manifesto and we believe especially in the times we are in that it is a very, very important initiative that will be implemented in short order.

“We’re excited about it. We’re looking forward to the full implementation of the body and dash cams.

“You know, we said we intend to make policing transparent to the people who we serve.

“I think it the right thing to do. I have always been a believer in it and we are doing just that.”

The 200 body-worn and dash cameras have a rollout date of August, Dames said.

Asked how the pandemic affected the implementation timeline, the minister said The Bahamas does not manufacture the equipment and once the contract was signed the process of payments began, and the infrastructure was next put in place.

The equipment and monitoring infrastructure cost the government nearly $700,000.

In June, Dames said the signaling units had been installed for the dash cams have been installed in the new patrol vehicles.

Yesterday, the minister said: “We’re actually when you look at it, we’re doing extremely well in terms of the timeline; COVID or no COVID, but again we’re dealing with a company outside of the country, and so, COVID would have impacted just about every business in the United States of America.”

He said government officials continue to have online meetings with the companies involved in the process.

The June announcement of the rollout of body-worn cameras came days after police officers shot and killed three men who “ambushed” one of the officers on Cowpen Road.

The standoff prompted debate about justifiable force.

At the time, Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle said while he was exploring introducing non-lethal weapons, the public should expect officers to defend themselves when confronted and shot at.

Asked whether video recordings of future incidents where there was increased public interest or controversy would be released to the public — as has been done in other jurisdictions — Dames said officers wearing cameras will have no control of the video, and its chain of custody will be protected for use in court.

“It becomes a source of a public document,” he said.

He added that police officers will “not be able to manipulate the information”.