A former police officer’s shocking confession that he and his colleagues would often beat suspects in custody and fix reports to send innocent people to jail has surprisingly not yielded the level of outrage that it should have.
The disturbing WhatsApp voice note was shared widely last week, prompting responses from National Security Minister Marvin Dames and Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) Commissioner, Anthony Ferguson.
In the voice note, the former officer who identifies himself and his tunic number, is heard firing off at another man, whom he says used to be a police officer.
“You sent people to jail because you fixed reports. I know I did. When my partners wanted to send people to jail and they didn’t do their proper investigation, we lied to cover and people went to prison. You did it and I did it. It ain’t a single police officer today or in our history who didn’t do that,” the former policeman said on the voice note.
“You know police officers have no integrity. They lie and send people to jail all the time. You don’t do proper investigations in this country. We beat people, force the confession, go to court, lie and send them to jail.”
Sounds about right.
The former officer, who has since retained legal counsel and claimed that he has received threats, even admitted that there was a competition among the officers to lock someone up.
“Someone’s [got to] go to jail,” he said, as the voice note ended.
These Are Serious Allegations
He’s right. Someone does have to go to jail. Especially if he or she doctored reports and forced confessions that resulted in the incarceration of innocent people. This former officer incriminated himself and revealed that he was aware of others who committed similar acts. That alone is cause for serious concern.
Minister Dames, meantime, called the allegations “appalling,” but said he doesn’t find the former officer to be credible, as he didn’t work in the RBPF’s investigations unit. Even if that is indeed the case, does that exclude the former officer from assaulting a suspect or witnessing assaults? Does that mean that he didn’t know of officers who doctored reports?
Meantime, Commissioner Ferguson said, “there is no reason that you would find any sensible individual falsifying any report to send somebody to prison.”
The good commissioner is wrong in two instances. Firstly, he is assuming that every officer operating on the RBPF is in fact, sensible. Secondly, political and societal pressure has an uncanny way of motivating officers to bring in a suspect, especially in instances where a heinous crime has been committed.
Just because Commissioner Ferguson can’t see something like this happening, doesn’t mean that it isn’t.
Too Many Complaints Against Police
According to Rights Bahamas’ internal statistics, there were 245 complaints against police last year.
The police force has a culture of beatings and torture as a means of extracting confessions. There, I said it. And I said it because it’s true.
How else do you explain a constant stream of bloodied suspects wobbling into court after being in police custody for several hours and making serious allegations of being beaten while in custody. Judges have been forced to toss cases because of this.
Most of these men – and that’s what the majority of the suspects are, men – are so busy fighting their court cases that they simply don’t have time, or the financial resources, to get justice.
Earlier this year, three people claimed they were tortured by police in Eleuthera. They say they were bound, beaten and had a fish bag placed over their heads. They claim they had hot sauce placed in their eyes and were waterboarded in order to get a confession.
Is there any wonder why members of the public are so distrustful of our force?
We Cannot Ignore Basic Human Rights
This is a country of laws. There is a presumption of innocence until legally proven guilty. People also have basic human rights.
It doesn’t matter that someone looks as if he or she could have committed a crime. It doesn’t matter that they come from a rough neighbourhood or had been in trouble in the past. While it may difficult for some to look past these transgressions, everyone is still entitled to due process.
If an officer believes a person is guilty, then produce evidence to convict him. That is the way it works. At least that’s the way it should work.
Commissioner Ferguson says there will be an investigation. While I’m thankful for the probe, I don’t have high expectations. That is not me being cynical, that is me being real as these incidents are rarely taken seriously.
In fact, I have serious issues with the police investigating itself, so I’d be curious to know who will be leading this inquiry. Will the Attorney General’s Office be looking into this former officer’s claims to see if there is validity to his allegations and to see who was sent to jail during his tenure?
Every person whose family member was sent to jail during this officer’s time on the force and believes that person to be innocent ought to be stepping forward. This, I believe, is the catalyst to expose even greater things.
The mere thought of an innocent person sitting behind bars humiliated and broken because some rogue cops had a quota to fill or a case to close, is sickening.
Do I believe that all police officers lie and beat confessions out of suspects? No.
Do I think all officers are bad? Absolutely not. But, the ones who aren’t should be angry that their colleagues are making them look bad.
The Media Need To Step Up
I call on my media colleagues to stay on this story. Do not let this issue die down. Police should never be comfortable beating anyone in custody. Nor should they feel comforted that nothing will come of it after emotions die down.
The average citizen does not have access to the top brass of the police force like we do. It is incumbent upon us to continue to agitate for updates on these investigations. That is the only way that the police will know that we are serious.
We cannot tolerate an abuse of power, as bullies with badges have no place on the police force.
I’d love to hear what you have to say. Weigh in, in the comments section.