Rights Bahamas: “Police Force out of control”

Dames: More emphasis will be placed on recruiting those who respect human rights

 

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – On the heels of alleged brutality claims levied against the Central Detective Unit (CDU) of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Rights Bahamas organization on Thursday called for a full and independent investigation of the Force’s alleged culture of beatings and torture as a means to extract confessions.

“This investigation should be conducted by experts totally unconnected with the RBPF, and preferably with international experience.

“The findings should be presented to the independent Director of Public Prosecutions, to bring charges against offending officers before the Supreme Court, and let the chips fall where they may,” outlined a statement issued yesterday from Rights Bahamas.

According to the human rights organization, brutality at the hands of officers has allegedly become so commonplace, that the police should just dispense with their “half-hearted excuses” of why they had to call an ambulance for a man who was being held in their custody.

“No one believes them,” Rights Bahamas stated.

Last week, attorney Christina Galanos told Eyewitness News that her client was allegedly abused by officers while detained at CDU and Emergency Medical Services were called to lend their assistance.

Rights Bahamas said police shootings and brutality claims have reached unprecedented levels under the Free National Movement administration.

The organization also referred to the complaints process as “a bad joke with officers allegedly investigating their own colleagues and friends with zero independent oversight”.

“The minister of national security actually admitted that although it is mandated by law to vet police internal investigations, the civilian Police Complaints Inspectorate has not even been appointed. The police are their own judge and jury,” Rights Bahamas said.

Rights Bahamas said according to internal statistics, there were 245 complaints against police last year, which is a shocking number in such a small society.

The organization said perhaps the police might want to reveal how many officers were found guilty and disciplined as a result.

“We suspect very few,” Rights Bahamas said.

The group also believes that there is a double standard that is being practised when it comes to the police and civilians.

Rights Bahamas claimed that if a civilian beats, suffocates or tortures an individual, they go to prison, but if a police officer does it, nothing happens.

“Even worse, the motivation for this brutality is allegedly the extraction of confessions under duress – leading to the likelihood that over the years, the RBPF may have deprived hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent people of their liberty based through the use of these illegal and reprehensible tactics,” Rights Bahamas said, adding that the government is obligated to ensure that its law enforcement officers do not prey upon the public they are sworn to protect.

“As for the victims of police brutality, while it is sensible to make a full and frank report of your ordeal to the Police Complaints Unit, it is clear that very little is likely to come from this process in terms of results,” Rights Bahamas said.

“Thankfully, there are a number of legal options available to you, from lawsuits against the RBPF for damages to private prosecutions of the individuals responsible for your suffering.

“Rights Bahamas urges you to take action in any way that you can; we can be contacted for advice and support at any time.”

Meanwhile, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames told Eyewitness News yesterday that police officers are presently receiving sensitivity training.

He also said that more emphasis is being placed on recruiting persons to join the Force who respect and value human rights.

Dames said the Force is all about bringing a higher level of transparency to the agency.  He said while the Force can invest in physical resources, they must also invest in those individuals who are recruited and brought into the agency.

“Our focus is looking at the recruitment process and ensuring that we get respectable young men and women and young men and women who are committed to this country, and who respect human rights,” Dames said.

“That is very important and we continue to engage civil society to ensure that we work along in this process.  We have a right to ensure and to protect the rights of each and every Bahamian no matter who they are.”