The time has come to hold bad cops accountable in order to end police brutality in this country.
They say if you have 10 bad cops and 1,000 good cops but the 1,000 good cops don’t turn in the 10 bad cops, then you have 1,010 bad cops.
As we watch riots and protests spread across the US following the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Americans, and more specifically, African Americans, are demanding widespread changes to the way police handle blacks and other people of colour.
Derek Chauvin, who has since been fired from the police department, killed Floyd by kneeling on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.
Three of Chauvin’s fellow Minneapolis officers, who were also fired, stood by doing nothing as Floyd pleaded for his life, repeatedly whimpering that he could not breathe.
In the aftermath of Floyd’s death, Minnesota’s governor announced a civil rights investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department.
San Francisco announced a resolution to prevent law enforcement from hiring officers with a history of misconduct and police brutality. Minnesota public schools ended their contract with police and in Birmingham, Alabama, officials removed a five-story-tall confederate monument.
It’s amazing to hear Bahamians speak with great fervor about what is happening in the US when we have witnessed police brutality repeatedly in our country and there is rarely a national outcry.
For years, it has been open season on young, black men in The Bahamas. And if you’re a young, black man from an inner city, with no financial resources to fight the system and no prominent last name, it’s even worse.
For years, members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) have been allowed to beat suspects with impunity. How many times have we watched and read news reports where suspects have told judges in this country that they were severely beaten while in custody? Yet, nothing was done to hold those officers accountable.
I have personally witnessed police officers giving testimony in court only to be caught lying during cross examination. In the cases I sat in, the officers were never held in contempt. That is beyond dangerous, especially when a man’s freedom or life hangs in limbo.
In my opinion, any officer caught lying on the stand should not only be held in contempt, but be forbidden from ever giving testimony again, because they simply cannot be trusted. In fact, that officer should be removed from the force.
Human rights groups in The Bahamas often speak out about officers brutalizing ordinary citizens. Yet, nothing ever happens. Rights Bahamas, for example, criticized former Police Commissioner, Anthony Ferguson for making excuses for bad officers. You can read all about it here: https://ewnews.com/rights-bahamas-condemns-cop-excuses-on-police-abuse
In January, viral videos showed police officers lining several young men up against a wall and beating them at the New Year’s Day Junkanoo Parade. There were mixed reactions to the beatings. Some Bahamians saw absolutely nothing wrong with the abuse. In fact, many posters online said the young men were “probably” thugs and thieves. They felt they were somehow deserving of a police beating because they looked a certain way, spoke a certain way or acted a certain way.
Well, guess what? That’s the same thing being said in America. But, it’s being said towards black men.
Other posters, meantime, were appalled at the violent police brutality that took place, especially in public.
Police promised an investigation, but the public was never updated on the results of that probe. The usual.
The government appointed the Police Complaints Inspectorate to investigate complaints filed with the RBPF’s Complaints and Corruption Branch. The group is chaired by Tanya McCartney. Once the Inspectorate is done reviewing those complaints, it needs to publish the results. Beyond that, there must be consequences.
In this column, I have been highly critical of police officers who disrespect and abuse members of the public. Read some of my past articles here: https://thisbahamiangyal.com/police-abuse-someones-got-to-go-to-jail/.
Officers, due to the nature of their job and the tremendous amount of power they have, should be held to the highest standard.
I’m certainly not immune to the police’s unprofessionalism. I have had several negative encounters with officers. Anytime I questioned them, expressed displeasure with the way they were carrying out their duties or asked them for their names or to identify their tunic numbers, they offered vague responses, put up a fight, got belligerent or issued violent threats.
In the past, I have written letters to subsequent police commissioners complaining about disrespectful officers. Nothing was ever done.
It is time for us to demand greater accountability from the RBPF. We can no longer offer protection to police officers who brutalize young men and women in this country.
I don’t need to highlight the long list of people who have been abused by police. They are in plain sight for the world to see. But, I know that it must be incredibly demoralizing to be abused at the hands of the police and watch them walk away without consequences.
We often say not all police officers are bad. And that is correct, not all are bad. But, if they shield their colleagues when they do wrong, they are just as complicit.
I suspect that a time will come when there will be an uprising so severe that it will bring this country to its knees. Hopefully, the new commissioner of the RBPF, and all law enforcement agencies, for that matter, will seek to clean house before it gets to the that point.
I will stress yet again that there needs to be proper vetting of police officers. Once they are on the force, they all need to undergo regular and random drug testing and periodic psych evaluations.
Imagine giving a person with serious anger management issues a badge and a loaded weapon. Disaster.