Minister of National Security the Hon. Marvin Dames said that since assuming office in May of last year, the government was acutely aware of the “daunting challenges” it faced in tackling crime and while the Government commended The Bahamas’ “brave” law enforcement officers for the positive inroads made to date, there remained much work left to do in 2018 that will require the collective effort of every resident. “When we came to Office a top priority of ours was to find a short-term solution for the high incidence of violent crime, especially murders,” Minister Dames said, January 7, 2018 at the Annual Royal Bahamas Police Force Church Service, held at Zion Baptist Church, Shirley Street.
Minister Dames said the Government took “immediate” steps to rescue Bahamian communities from the “almost daily violent episodes of crime which had become commonplace.” “Led by a new commissioner, Mr. Anthony Ferguson, Guns and Gangs and a Rapid Response Units were formed to identify, target, arrest and dismantle these crime networks; hot-spot crime areas and prolific offenders were targeted under a more deliberate and sustained approach, culminating in the development of a force-wide patrolling strategy,” he said. “The strategy was focused, intentional, dynamic, relentless and it allowed for patrol officers to be within striking distance of incidents as they occurred. “In the coming months our Government will be introducing additional policies that we have spent a considerable amount of time on that are holistic in scope and are expected to complement current law enforcement efforts and restore the peace in our communities,” Minister Dames said.
Minister Dames pointed out that, for the past several months, a comprehensive Police Manpower Audit was undertaken and would be completed in a few weeks. What that audit, he said, the Government would determine what was the necessary number of officers needed within the organization to effectively provide policing services to communities on a sustained basis. “No longer will stations have inadequate numbers of officers on a shift,” Minister Dames said. “No longer will recruitment be based on who you know, but based on the needs of the organization.” Moreover, he noted, the Police Manpower Audit would end the need for prescribed promotion dates determined by politicians. “Our government has heard your cries of upward mobility being impeded because of personal preferences,” Minister Dames said. “No more.”
“Whenever there is an availability then there will be an opportunity for promotion,” he added. “So, if there is an availability every day due to a retirement, illness, personal reason or dismissal, there will be an opportunity for some competent and hardworking officer to be promoted.” Minister Dames said that the Audit would also detail how the command structure should be arranged in order to operate an efficient 21st-century police organization. A similar audit is currently underway in the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, and the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services will also undergo an audit – which is scheduled to commence during the second quarter of 2018, he said. “It is also noteworthy that the Cabinet has approved the hire of 120 Defence Force Recruits and this recruitment process will commence tomorrow,” he added. “The Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services have all finalized their recruitment lists and these exercises will commence in a few short weeks.”
Minister Dames said that the Government understood that in the dynamic and constantly changing field of law enforcement, training and education are essential. The Government also know that the police force was filled with a number of talented officers who have the capacity to, one day, lead the organization. “Towards this end, our government has committed to establishing a Succession Plan that will involve international attachments, training, and postings to critical areas of the Force,” Minister Dames said. “No longer will training be available for a chosen few but available to all police officers, as your upward mobility in the organization will depend on your exposure and comprehension of your craft,” he added. “If you are unable to write a basic arrest report then how can you be a station Sergeant?”
The Government is also serious about improving infrastructure and providing officers with equipment necessary to perform all their duties optimally and professionally, he said.“I am pleased to announce that the Cabinet has approved the purchase of a new $5.9 million vehicle fleet of which $2.3 million will be acquired in this fiscal period,” Minister Dames said. “These vehicles will comprise police cruisers, SUVs, T-3 Segways, and ATVs.” Minister Dames said, as Minister of National Security, he was also acutely aware of the substandard working conditions that many officers have had to contend with for far too long.“We cannot expect you to give your best when we fail to acknowledge and fix the substandard environment in which you work,” he said. “This also holds true for the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the Correctional Services,” he added Let me assure each of you that we are going to put our money where our mouth is. We are taking corrective steps to have the dilapidated stations and other buildings that law enforcement officers occupy, completely renovated.”
Minister Dames said that, in a world of technological advances, the Government was fully committed to modernizing the Royal Bahamas Police Force to ensure that it keeps pace and remain on the cutting edge of law enforcement. “Last year we rolled out the test phase of body cameras,” Minster Dames said. “We are working with global industry leaders in such areas as improved CCTV technology, analytics, facial recognition capability, license plate recognition, artificial intelligence, gunshot detection, cyber, drones, and radar technology to name a few. Bahamians can expect to see many of these tools introduced this year.“One of our Government’s aim is to bring excitement to law enforcement again.”
Minister Dames said he recently reconvened meetings with all Heads of Law Enforcement Agencies (inclusive of Corrections, Customs, Defence, Immigration, and Police) and they had been mandated by the Government to establish a Multi-Agency Task Force to protect Bahamian borders. “These multi-agency teams will combine intelligence capacity, skills and resource capabilities of all local law enforcement partners,” he said. “As Minister of National Security, I am determined that law enforcement agencies will not operate in silos but form one single, seamless bridge with cooperation and camaraderie as its hallmarks.”
Minister Dames said that the Government fully understands that crime-fighting rest, not in the hands of the police alone. “The crime fight involves all of us working together,” he said. “Very shortly, the National Neighbourhood Watch Council will be launched which will empower Bahamian citizens in crime prevention. Crime Watch Group members are excited and looking forward to this new partnership which will greatly assist you in the execution of your duties.” On behalf of Prime Minister the Hon. Dr. Hubert Alexander Minnis, The Government, and People of The Commonwealth Of The Bahamas, Minister Dames publicly thanked “the fine men and women of the entire law enforcement community” for the work that you continue to do. “In spite of the many challenges you continue to report for duty and give of your best even at the risk of losing your life all in the name of the country,” he said. “You are truly our heroes and without ‘You’ there would be no ‘Us’. We are also grateful to your families for their sacrifices made as you serve your country.”
Minister Dames said how very pleased he was to be in the Annual Police Church Service at historic “Mother Zion”. “I believe it is always a wonderful thing to start your year off in service and celebration to Almighty God for allowing us another year of life and for His faithfulness and protection during the past year,” he said. “I extend best wishes to those officers who retired in 2017 from this noble organization after faithfully serving our nation.” He said he also remembered and joined them in paying respects to serve officers who fell from the ranks of law enforcement over the past year, adding that may their souls rest in peace. “Officers, let me assure you that you have the full support of my Ministry, and no effort or expense will be spared to provide you with the necessary tools needed for you to be successful in your execution of duties,” Minister Dames said. “I commend the endeavors of all police and all other law enforcement agencies.”