Categorized | National News

Nottage: I Have To Act

A string of violent murders over the past few months has left many families in mourning, the nation gripped with fear and National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage unapologetic about placing police officers on 12-hour shifts to fight crime. The minister said “Bahamians are fearful and I have to act now.”

In fact, Dr. Nottage said those police officers who are complaining about the long work days will remain on those shifts until the country returns to normality.

The murder count is edging towards 90.

In order to assist police, the government has deployed 150 Defence Force marines to sedentary duties so that police officers can work the frontlines.

During an interview with The Bahama Journal on Monday, the minister said the government will make decisions about its crime plan from week to week and will adjust the plan accordingly.

He also asked officers to be more understanding.

“Everybody is concerned about crime. Everybody is fearful about crime. The people who are employed to seek to prevent crime and to seek to detect crime are the Royal Bahamas Police Force; that is their job,” he said.

“We are bringing in 150 Defence Force officers. The reason for that is to provide more policemen, particularly in the hot spots, but it also buffers them somewhat from excessive hours. So it’s not like the same amount of officers are now being required to do this extra work, but we have brought in additional bodies to assist them in doing so.”

He continued, “And what I would ask the police officers today is to cooperate with us; I’m sure they understand as well as I do or perhaps even better, the situation in which the country is at the moment and the need for us to take extraordinary steps to counteract the illicit activity that’s going on in our country.”

Police Staff Association (PSA) Executive Chairman Dwight Smith recently lamented that the government didn’t consult his association prior to implementing its crime plan.

In an interview with The Bahama Journal yesterday, Mr. Smith said he met with Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade yesterday and he is satisfied that he and his management team will look out for the officer’s best interests.

“The minute people hear [they have to work] 12 hours they ask a lot of questions: when it’s going to start, when it’s going to end. How will it affect me and my children? All I could say to officers is you will be looked after and taken care of from the commander’s perspective,” he said.

“Each officer will be dealt with in a different manner and I say that because different officers have different issues. We have officers who marry officers; we have single parents, so all of this will come into play. But, I am confident that the commissioner is sensitised to that and I feel that he and his team are doing their best to meet the needs of those officers.”

However, the minister noted that the PSA is an association, not a trade union.

He said if there is going to be law and order in The Bahamas everyone must understand what his or her role is.

“I have had discussions with the senior executive management of the police force along with their commanders and the people who are responsible for the various divisions. I have explained to them the issues that we are confronted with in the country, crime and violence, which we have to get control of. We have discussed a number of strategies in order to deal with those issues and one of them was to put the police officers on a 12-hour shift; [it was] not my decision, but the advice that I received from those who are responsible for the Royal Bahamas Police Force,” Dr. Nottage said.

“Prior to this decision being made, I have had no complaints from police officers that they were overworked or working too many hours; that is news to me. No one has told me that; the commissioner hasn’t told me that. The Royal Bahamas Police Force is a disciplined force. Members of the force know that in times of emergency or in times when there is a need they are often requested or required to work extra hours. They do it for Junkanoo. My only point is that if that becomes an issue I expect to be informed by the commissioner of police and he hasn’t informed me of that.”

The minister also assured that the nation’s borders are not going to neglected now that Defence Force marines are assisting police in their crime fight.

“The Defence Force officers who are being used are primarily not on the frontline of crime fighting, but primarily assist with those duties which allow crime fighting officers to be on the frontlines. There will be no effect from that in our inability to deal with matters that the Defence Force has responsibility for,” he said.

“The Defence Force Act has as one of the four principal duties . . . to assist law enforcement agencies in the country when the need arises.”

The national security minister said he is “fairly confident” that this new crime plan will benefit the country.

“How great an effect remains for us to see. We are responding to the needs of the country, the needs of ordinary people who are really tired of the escalation in crime, and those persons in fear. We are seeking to return the country to normality. So, as soon as we are able to return the country to normality is as soon as we’ll be able to revert to the normal working hours. But, I understand that police have to work harder in the meantime and I seek their support, their understanding and their skills.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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