McCartney: 'officers who break the law will be dealt with'
By LEDEDRA MARCHE
FN Senior Reporter
Nearly one year after the Royal Bahamas Police Force instituted its own court of inquiry to handle complaints made against police officers, Grand Bahama's police report that the unit has been effective.
The body, Senior Assistant Commissioner Quinn McCart-ney revealed, was launched in February of 2010 and moves into action once a grievance is filed with the Complaints and Corruption arm of the force.
"That's our internal disciplinary procedure. We have somebody who sits here now in Grand Bahama on a full-time basis and so all of our matters that are investigated, and we feel that there is sufficient evidence to put them before our court of inquiry tribunal, those matters are heard right here in Grand Bahama," McCartney said.
"We have been doing ex-tremely well in terms of dealing with those cases."
The Complaints and Cor-ruption Unit was formed in September of 2000 and since then, the force has been inundated with complaints from citizens who say they were treated unjustly.
According to the Royal Bahamas Police Force website, any citizen can file a complaint via letter, telephone, email or in person to any police officer at any of the local stations or wherever the officer may be while on duty.
As each grievance is treated seriously, complaints made against police officers can be made at any local police station or at the Complaints and Corruption Unit in New Providence or Grand Bahama.
However, making a false complaint is a serious offence and will lead to prosecution.
Anyone making a complaint is always interviewed before it is recorded and investigated.
If it is determined at the completion of the investigation that the complaint was false, the complainant will be arrested and prosecuted.
The website also reveals that if an officer is found to have acted improperly, the appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.
While it cannot be guaranteed that the complainant will be satisfied with the outcome, the force does however, guarantee that any inquiry or complaint will be thoroughly investigated.
"We have a very, very difficult job to do and there will be persons who will cry foul and say that they were not treated properly.
"Our officers were taught to respect the rights of every citizen whether they're a victim or a suspect and we try to in fact force that on the British system basis," said SAC McCartney.
"We have a complaints and corruption unit, so where members of the public feel aggrieved and don't feel that they were treated properly they can come and make a complaint to the complaints and corruption unit."
In September 2007, the force came under heavy criticism by the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA) and other naysayers in recent times as they are opposed to the idea of the police policing themselves.
The then president Fred Smith pointed out that the force's Complaints and Corruption Unit is not in a position to give any redress and, while the Police Disciplinary Tribunal decides on whether to discipline the policeman, the public may never know what happens internally.
"I know that there has been talk throughout the year about the police not being able to police itself or to lock up its own officers and I want to say that's far from the truth," SAC McCartney said.
"We are prepared to investigate every complaint that is made and if founded, the officers who go afoul of the law, who breach our policies and procedures will be dealt with."
The Grand Bahama top cop noted, however, that it is unfortunate that on occasion the force also receives a number of unfounded complaints.
"Members of the public aggrieved felt that they were arrested or should not have been stopped for a ticket make frivolous complaints, but we want to say that there is a mechanism in place for police who go afoul of the law," he reminded.
Already for the year, the force has had to utilize its public relations department in Grand Bahama in a matter which occurred in Eight Mile Rock on New Year's Eve when an officer discharged his weapon and four bystanders were reportedly injured.
Just last week in New Providence, police officers were reportedly involved with the alleged beating of a female guide during an altercation in front of tourists.
Senior Assistant Commissioner McCartney asserted that the Royal Bahamas Police Force is not afraid to prosecute its officers who break the law or breach the organization's policies and procedures and, he noted, every complaint that comes in from members of the public is recorded.
© 2010 The Freeport News