We do not condone officers acting outside authority, says Dames

We do not condone officers acting outside authority, says Dames
Still image taken from a video recording purporting to show officers beating men at Woodes Rogers Walk during the New Year's Day Junkanoo Parade.

Minister reminds officers of their duty to serve Bahamian public

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of National Security Marvin Dames yesterday declared the government will not condone any law enforcement officer acting outside his or her authority.

He was responding to questions from the media about several viral videos that purport to show officers beating several men on the sidelines of the 2020 New Year’s Junkanoo Parade, though it is unclear whether the minister was speaking directly to the matter, which is under investigation.

“You would have heard my comments in the church not too long ago,” Dames said on the sidelines of the police force’ annual church service at Holy Family Roman Catholic Church.

“We are not going to condone any law enforcement officer acting outside his or her authority.

“There is no room for that, not in the Royal Bahamas Police Force, not in the Royal Bahamas Defence Force; not in any of these agencies. We can’t have that. That goes counter to what we are seeking to achieve.

Minister of National Security Marvin Dames

“However, we will defend officer who are acting in accordance with the law, but not those who are acting outside of it and in breach of the law. This is reason why we now have the group set up to look at — led by Ms. Tanya McCartney — to review complaints against police officers to ensure they are being investigated fairly and people are being heard.”

He was referring to the Police Complaints Inspectorate, which is mandated to review the investigation and determination of complaints Complains and Corruption Branch of the RBPF to ensure that investigations have been conducted impartially.

When asked about the actions of the officers in the videos, the minister said he had not taken a “serious look” at them.

In two videos, police can be seen brandishing nightsticks and swinging into a crowd in front of the Bank of The Bahamas building on Shirley Street.

In one short clip, a man can be seen laying on the floor as an officer hits him.

The incidents have renewed the spotlight over the police force.

Asked whether the officers had been identified and were still reporting to work, Dames deferred to the police commissioner.

In a separate interview, Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson was asked the same question, but he reiterated that the matter had been forwarded to the Complaints and Corruption Unit and was under investigation.

He noted; however, that despite what “what people feel or say, there is timing in any investigation”.

Duty to serve

During yesterday’s church service, Dames reminded officers of their duty to serve the Bahamian people.

He said: “You must never forget that. Police officers serve the public.  The power of the police to fulfill their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behavior, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.

“Never mistreat or abuse any member of the public at any time. This job is simply about service to the Bahamian people.”

Dames urged officers to remember who they work for.

He also said that means resisting the temptation to be corrupt, insisting that a bad officer not only betrays the public’s trust, but put their lives and the lives of their colleagues at risk.

He pledged that officers who violate their oath of office will continue to be “relentlessly pursued”.

As pointed out by the minister, the government is expected to sign a contract for over 200 body worn cameras and dash cameras for police officers in short order.

He said this is an attempt to bring about a higher level of transparency.

“This is a clear indication we are not to cover for anything or anyone

“I often say to officers, you have to take your oath seriously and not because you were the uniform means that you have special privileges. That Is not so. As a matter of fact, what is means is that you are held to a higher level of accountability.”