Sun, Sand, Sea & Police Brutality

By Rogan Smith |
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Here we go again. More complaints about police brutality followed by a predictable, lackluster and embarrassing promise of an investigation that the public knows will go absolutely nowhere – just like the scores of other investigations that we never hear about.

This time, the brutality didn’t happen in the shadows of a police station’s grimy interrogation room, but rather in front of scores of shocked New Year’s Day Junkanoo goers and fully powered smartphone cameras streaming the abuse live to the world. 

Watching footage of a police officer lining three young black men up against a wall and violently beating them across their backs and buttocks as if they were his disobedient children was beyond disturbing. The enraged officer is also seen aggressively pulling his fellow officer back and going in and hitting those men with a ridiculous amount of force. 

In a another beating incident on Shirley Street, we see footage of another officer beating a man. The victim later emerges with blood pouring down his head.

For those of you who don’t know, many international law enforcement experts consider the billy club to be a significant lethal weapon due to the danger it poses in causing death and brain trauma. 

I have read hundreds of comments since this incident unfolded at the popular cultural parade. The majority of people commenting were disgusted by the abuse. However, there were some who immediately demonized the young men and congratulated the officers for beating them. 

I was especially distressed to read online comments from the son of a former police commissioner who applauded the police for its “good work.” Sentiments like that are exactly the problem. What transpired was not proper policing. It was abuse, plain and simple, and quite barbaric. The men were not even arrested following the beatings. 

It is hypocritical that we condemn police brutality in the United States, particularly when it happens towards black men, but condone police abuse towards our own.

Tourists Turned Off By Abuse 

Several African Americans chimed in on various social media platforms to express their disgust at what transpired. Many said they had no clue that police were brutalizing young, black men here. Some said they had planned to visit The Bahamas, but are changing their plans in protest. 

Some Bahamians tried to change their minds and assure those visitors that police respect tourists, but those assurances were not good enough. Their minds were made up. We must remember there are visitors who are incredibly sensitive to matters like these because of what they experience in America. 

Perhaps that is what it’s going to take. It’s going to take international pressure to change the attitudes of the police force, because a tarnished image and an angry citizenry aren’t enough to get the force to take this seriously.

We also have to stop looking at people and assuming that because they look a certain way, speak a certain way or come from a certain area that they are automatically criminals. It is profiling and it is wrong. 

I don’t care that a black man is in his twenties. I don’t care that he is from an inner city area. I don’t care that he is not perfect. I don’t care that he smokes marijuana. I don’t care that he has plaits or locs in his hair. He should not be abused in the manner that those men were abused down town. 

The police do not get the benefit of the doubt from me and many other people due to the fact that they have been accused countless times and are rarely held accountable for their actions. 

Time For Police Chief To Go

Police Commissioner Anthony Ferguson must go. He has demonstrated that he is not serious about reforming the police force. Either he does not want to or he simply does not have the aptitude and energy to do so. 

Ferguson has not been as transparent with the public as he should have been. He remains mute until forced to respond. He is never stern or forceful when disavowing his officers’ actions. 

He needs to tell us how many incidents are currently under investigation and give us the status of those that have been resolved. It is not enough to say something is under investigation and then move on. Furthermore, it’s laughable that the police force is investigating itself. 

National Security Minister, Marvin Dames recently noted that Ferguson is “nearing the end of his reign” at the force. Good. The amount of rogue cops that have surfaced along with complaints about police brutality under his reign have been terrifying. Serious leadership is needed. However, I am not hopeful about his successor if he plays any role in grooming or selecting that individual. 

I have said time and time again that the force needs to do better screening of police officers, particularly psychological screening and drug testing. And I’m not just talking about at the recruitment stage. Officers should be routinely screened and trained on proper techniques for deescalating situations. 

I won’t pretend to know what it takes to be a police officer in The Bahamas. Dealing with the criminal element must take a serious toll on many of the officers. But, problems surface when officers start treating everyone like a criminal and use extreme force in situations that don’t warrant them. 

For those individuals who feel like the group of men got what they deserved, I hope that they or their loved ones never feel the force of a baton to the head. 

The public needs to understand that the reason why many of these individuals who are abused at the hands of police are not able to sue is because they simply do not have the financial resources to do so. I was happy to hear that two of the men have since secured legal counsel. 

Our local human rights organization, which is vocal on many issues, should have been leading the charge on these recent incidents.

Nothing and I mean absolutely nothing will come out of this investigation. I’d love to be proven wrong. But, history tells me, I won’t. 

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