My understanding of police brutality is the unwarranted rough treatment of residents while in the commission of an arrest and or while in protective police custody. Protective custody means that the police have assumed responsibility for the health and care of someone who has been arrested and or detained for reasons that the police deem reasonably sufficient for investigative purposes. Once a citizen is in protective police custody, it is expected that that police would take care of that person’s well being. Recently, two Bahamian males have died while in police custody and this has sparked wide public outrage with some Bahamians not having a problem with it and many others calling for an end to alleged police brutality.
These matters have been rightfully referred to the head of the coroner’s court, magistrate Linda Virgill. She has initiated her investigations and once completed, same will be made public. The Attorney General’s office will be guarded by Virgill’s decision.
No one can say for sure at this time what happened to the deceased individuals, but the officers on duty are in the best position to offer factual critical evidence that will help establish the causes of death. But there is one thing for certain that black belt Bahamians do know; police brutality is alive and well in our country. In fact this is a subculture in the Bahamas that young men, most of whom have decided to engage in a life of crime have come to expect to endure once they are in police custody.
I myself have heard first hand of many alleged stories where police have used sub-humane and unlawful methods to try to get suspects to admit to crimes that the police felt that they committed. I have heard that the police use several methods to get the desired information out of suspects.
(1). They allegedly would handcuff the suspect’s hands at the back and then repeatedly put his face in the toilet boil for extended periods, leaving him gasping for air.
(2). They allegedly have a coffin that they would put suspects in. While armed with government issued rifles that have been cocked, the police would seemingly give suspects the choice of either confessing or being placed in a coffin where the suspect would think that death was imminent.
(3). They allegedly would just put an old fashioned cut hip on the suspects. I have heard stories where suspects were beaten in the face, suffered broken jaws, broken ribs and broken legs while in police custody.
I have also heard that the police now use more efficient methods to “deal” with suspects now because of the excessive amount of complaints now being sputtered out in the magistrate court. I heard that they have perfected the art of using pillows where they would beat suspects in the face and about the body without leaving any external marks or blemishes.
I have some understanding of street life in our country and I can tell you that the alleged police brutality is not garnering the results that police may desire. Criminals become more hardened. They say that some police are “lazy” in their investigations and would rather beat you up to get a confession as opposed to doing the hard meticulous work of actually finding evidence that the Attorney General’s office can use in a court of law.
There is no doubt in my mind that police brutality is entrenched in the Central Detective Unit (CDU) section of the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF). These officers are under a heavy load of stress every day and they have to deal directly with the new breed of criminals and the miscreants on our streets. They have to deal with criminals who are arrested today and then 48 hours later, these same thugs are back on the street, free to commit other crimes and terrorize our society. This has to be taking a significant toll on our officers, who are doing their endeavor best to protect and serve the Bahamas and who know firsthand that some criminals have made a resolve to commit crimes for as long as they live.
But in all of this, they have to remember that as police officers, they must uphold the laws of the country. They cannot cross the line of breaking the law while investigating crimes because they then become bad guys and the public’s trust in them would be diminished. Let me be the first to say that I have no problem with the police using deadly force when it is necessary. I know that police are already at a disadvantage because the criminals now are shooting first and the police are in a reactionary mode.
Criminals are now using assault rifles in the commission of their crimes against ordinary citizens and against the police. People who know about guns would tell you that assault rifles are intended for overkill. Our police officers face a daunting task in the apprehension of dangerous criminals and I think the public fully appreciates this fact. But when these suspects are in protective police custody, the law provides even these alleged scoundrels of the earth certain constitutional rights.
The country will await the findings of Coroner Virgill. I hope and pray that our dear police in this instance have not crossed the line.