RBPF audit points to gender disparity among reserves

Some reserves did not report for duty, but paid

An audit into the Royal Bahamas Police Force’s (RBPF) Reserve Branch shows significant gaps between men and women at the senior levels of the reservists’ program.

Minister of National Security Marvin Dames tabled the report in Parliament yesterday.

At the time of the audit, there were 787 men in ranks ranging from constable to inspector, and 338 women in those positions.

At the assistant superintendent rank, more were more than double the number of men compared to women – 48 to 17.

Similarly, there were more than seven times the number of men with the rank of superintendents than women.

There were 51 male superintendents and seven female superintendents.

The five chief superintendents and one senior assistant commissioner were all men.

There was one female assistant commissioner of police, according to the audit.

“In addition to men dominating the reserves branch by strength, they also had higher ranks within the hierarchy structure,” the report read.

“Of course, this was partly due to the fact that the police force was inherently patriarchal thereby leading to negative stereotypes and gender biases against female police officers.

“Specifically, the issue also stemmed from very few vacancies for women at the various ranks thereby impacting their upward mobility; preferential policies and procedures based on gender; and cultural barriers which prevented women from advancing equally with their male counterpart.”

The audit said the trend was observed globally.

At the time of the audit, there were 1,255 reserves, of which the majority (63 percent) were deployed on New Providence.

Of the 58 commanders, 50 were men and only eight were women.

Of that figure, 768 or 61 percent were considered active.

The audit pointed to challenges in quantifying the exact number of reserves who reported for duty, but said what was more disturbing was the duty rota data provided by the Reserves’ Office, did not match that of the divisional commanders nor the Payroll Office.

As reported by Eyewitness News Online yesterday, there was a practice in the program of retired officers re-enlisting in the reserves program and retaining their rank or being promoted to higher ranks “without justification or standardization”.

The audit also revealed that for the past decade reserves have been allowed to work up to between 150-200 hours per month, and in any given year, 1,800 hours, up 837 percent from the allotted hours provided by the Police Act.

For a reserve officer with the rank of assistant commissioner of police, at the subsistence rate allotted of $12 per hour, he or she would earn $1,800 per month or $21,600 per year.

But auditors found discrepancies with time sheets, resulting in overpayment of officers, and found that a number of reserves were paid for full-time employment despite not reporting for duty.

Reserves cost taxpayers approximately $800,000 per month or over $9 million per year, auditors found.

The audit recommended that officers who had not reported for duty in 13 months be dismissed from the program, and those who have not reported to duty within the last five must be issued a letter requesting that they report for duty or face potential dismissal.

It also recommended that payroll conduct a mandatory verification process for all reserves every year to address the challenges associated with accounting for reserve officers.

Additionally, auditors recommended that reserves be capped at 30 hours per month, nearly double the currently prescribed figure.

It was also proposed that reserves receive a 25-cent increase on their hourly rate.