‘Separate Body To Oversee Police Needed’

July 1, 2011

Community activist Carlton Simmons spoke out about his concerns with possible inappropriate action by some police officers, and while saying he does not feel police misconduct is widespread, he called for a separately funded internal affairs division with the “regulatory teeth to investigate the police” when complaints may arise.

Mr Simmons said, “I have decided to speak to Bernews about what I consider is a raise in amount of claims from individuals in the public about abuses by the police. I don’t think it’s widespread, but I do think there is a small amount of officers who have taken advantage of the new PACE law.”

“An incident I observed less than a week ago where a young girl was shoved to the ground by an officer, something I have never seen before, and I thought it was quite out of order and uncharacteristic of a police officer. And when I spoke out about it, I find myself being arrested, and spent the next 24 hours in the cell.”

“Only to have the charges not bought before the courts at a later date, but my DNA and fingerprints were taken as a result. So now I have to take up the fight of having that removed from the system.”

“And so my concern becomes…what about those individuals who have criminal records who do not have the resources to fight for their rights, and to have their voices heard. Myself, I have no criminal convictions so it’s relatively straightforward for me to go and to speak to a lawyer and to get him to represent me to get my DNA thrown out, and ultimately I believe that will happen, and I’ve already filed a complaint against the arresting officer.”

“But it was hard to see an officer take and incident and stretch it to be able to create an arrest. And like I said, I don’t think that this practice is widespread among the police, but I do think that legislators in Bermuda and particularly government needs to look at the amount of power they have given the police service, and understand that we do not have the checks and balances in place to protect against corruption in the police force.”

“I believe that the units who I have worked with, with regards to police complaints units, as well as the relative sergeants who take the complaints about different incidents to a really good job. However, basically Bermuda police service, polices itself. We have no internal affairs. We have no external funded bodies that have powers to investigate the police force.”

“That doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world, and so it leaves room for officers basically to hide behind the blue wall of silence. And although I think it’s only a few officers who take advantage of the new laws, the challenge comes that most officers will not speak out against another fellow officer.”

“And so even though they don’t participate in the behavior, there is little evidence or little room for member of the public who has been…let’s say used or abused by the system to get support from other police officers who, in most cases, are the only other person present.”

“So, they might not participate in the behavior, but they’re not gonna speak out against their colleagues in the aid of a member of the public. So my appeal is really to the community to make sure that if they see injustices, especially with regards to arrests, stop and searches, that they make the relevant complaints to the police and get it documented. But also to our legislators, that we need to look at a system that allows for justice to be done outside of the police service.”

“We need an internal affairs, a body that can oversee the police service that is not necessarily of the police service. Right now, the police complaints authority is made up of members of the Bermuda police service who are also funded by the same budget as the police service.”

“It is a conflict of interest right there, and like I said, that doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. And so my fear is that as time goes on, that these things will only get worse. Also, PACE law is being used in a way where there are many things that they cannot, they don’t necessarily have to arrest you for.”

“PACE gives police officers the ability to issue tickets on the spot for anything that doesn’t carry more than a 12-month prison sentence. But yet they choose to arrest, because when they arrest, they have the authority or they have the option of making sure that all people processed give a scan, meaning your DNA and your fingerprints are taken so as a result, they are arresting people for things as small as outstanding $50 fines and then they’re taking a DNA or fingerprint.”

“There’s no relation between a $50 fine for running the stoplight, and taking somebody’s DNA or fingerprint and I think that’s a violation of people’s human rights. I think it’s a violation of people’s civil rights and unfortunately the majority of people just happening to are young black men and women who don’t have the resources and the ability to fight these matters.”

“And so I wanna bring this to the attention of the public as well as the legislative authorities. Mr. Perinichief and the likes to look at it and seriously consider re-examining the powers that we have given the police, and make sure that we have the checks and balances in place to do something about it, i.e. an internal affair separately funded and has the regulatory teeth to investigate the police…”

“…Again this is all coming in the police. I think people will feel more comfortable if we have an external force, something like an internal affairs service or some bureau that works independent from the police because the people who take the complaints…. one day they’re acting as people in the complaints unit, then the next day they work alongside of the officers as fellow officers, so that creates a conflict,” concluded Mr Simmons.

[The Police have not yet responded to our request yesterday for comment, however we hope to update as able.]

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Comments (31)

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  1. Much Agreed says:

    I once tried to make a formal complaint at the police station about somthing I personally witnessed one evening and the sergeant on duty (who was not witness to the event) took me outside of the station on the street and wispered to me that no matter what i said about his officers it would be his word against mine. Basically he asked me about what i had seen and i told him, then he retold my story back to me and changed all the details! I was so shocked and confused and said to him ‘but thats not what I just said’ and his response was ‘who’s going to believe you? its my word against yours’, then he walked back inside. Before this incident I had faith in ‘the system’ and complete faith that police officers worked with integrity but now I dont know what to believe unfortunately.

    • Can you handle this says:

      @ Much Agreed I totally know where your coming from as I was privy to a similar exchange when I accompanied a friend of mine to lodge a complaint! All I can say is “Things that make you say hmmm? unbelievable!

      I have friends that are on the force some are great but two of them are as wicked as the day is long and I am always telling them about themselves..CYOA is what they always say..Cover Your Own Ass!! and they see nothing wrong with their behavior…..

    • Ganja mon says:

      Well imagine being viewed as a criminal how they would treat you! I think Mr. Simmons is %110 correct! We do need a dept. that can help the people against corrupt police who love their jobs too much . These police officers nowadays have ZERO respect for Bermudians and feel they are better then us.

      Then people wonder why todays youth have no respect for officers. Personally, I think the English and Caribbean officers are the worst with their personal remarks towards young people.

      Secondly, he his absolutely right that police officers wont go against another officer even though they know the cop could be wrong. With that said, at least we dont have the police brutality like the US. Now they are crazy! Everytime I got pulled over in the US (3x) while driving I got a good look at a standard Police edition 9mm tool. After I said I’m from Bermuda in college, the gun was put back in his holster, smfh.

      • Govnamon says:

        thats cause ur black… half of america’s cops are racist

        • Ganja mon says:

          WELL!!! Some people say I always make things racial..so I left my opinion as to why…out!

    • Truth (Original) says:

      Imagine. I slap you. You have a problem with that but the only person you can complain to about it, is me. That is an inherent problem and flaw in the system. I believe that an independent body should have long been set up to police the police as it were, the issue now is that there is no money in the pot to fund our current responsibilities. There is definitely no money to start a new initiative.

  2. True says:

    I agree we need somoneone to Police the Police.

  3. Terry says:

    Bwahaaaaaaaaaaaa

    Looks like someone is looking for a Gover(n)ment funded job……..Things are tight but this is bull%hit.,………Friends and family……………………

  4. Jus' Askin' says:

    I have been saying it for years. “Who protects Us, from the BPS”. Thank You Carlton and Bernews. And to find out the governor is in charge of them and we pay all of them. My tax payer dollars pay them and we have No Say, No Protection from those that abuse their position.

  5. Patricia says:

    Mr. Simmons, your comments have substance and sound logical to me. One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.

  6. YouSPEAKtruth says:

    OMG!! You have hit the nail on the head. I was at this incident you speak of and saw the young girl get forcefully pushed to the ground. It was absolutely ridiculous. I stood aside and spoke to another officer about the rights that officer has to do that and like always they defend each other. Not to mention the mail officer who had forcefully pushed the girl to the ground was VERY much a man on the chunky side compared to her small frame. I could not believe my eyes, I believe I saw you get arrested as well.

    Take this to the fullest extent that you can because I saw first hand how dirty those police operate. Outside work needs to be done.

    Not to always mention the foreigners but, they take the most aggressive approach to the members of our community. It’s more than refreshing to have a BERMUDIAN police officer deal with an issue.

    TAKE THIS TO THE HILLS AND GO TELL IT ON A MOUNTAIN !

  7. YouSPEAKtruth says:

    Spelling correction: Male *

  8. Concerned Bermudian says:

    I have also had a bad incident with Bermuda Police Service. A very immature woman/child took it upon herself to urinate in my helmet and I took it to the police station and the woman there told me that they could not help me because it would cost too much money to send it away to have the dna tested. So they can send the dna for other crimes away but not this one? I wonder what other cases they have aquitted because they do not want to spend the money to send the dna away?

    • KMFL says:

      I understand your concern, but do you really think is fiscally responsible to spend over 2,000 because someone urinated in your helmet? the BPS falls into the same budget restraints as the rest of the island.

      • OMG says:

        Ok so if someone was to do the same to you, you are saying that you wouldnt bother going to the police? This is why there are so many people taking justice into their own hands. If they are not here to help the people then what they hell are they here for? To serve and protect right? Well, when are they going to start protecting instead of only serving? Tell me that.

      • Tuba says:

        Exactly. And one could always have sent the helmet away at their own expense to have a DNA profile produced..and then what? In an ideal world everything would be sent away for DNA testing. Let’s be realistic and just buy a new helmet and don’t leave it places where people may mistake it for a toilet.

  9. Chart says:

    Such a body already exists: The Police Complaints Authority, set up in 98.

  10. Riley B King says:

    I don’t agree with any of this. I’d rather the Police were given more powers to use against the nasty thugs who are breaking into houses, robbing tourists and locals, and carrying knives and guns.

    Complaining about the Police is classic looking in the wrong direction.

    • Concerned Bermudian says:

      I really hope you are being sarcastic? I mean, yes, they can beat these thugs up who deal with these guns but when it comes to a woman, or a good citizen who does not start trouble, then they need to be more gentle.

    • Free Thinker says:

      That’s what the upper class in Jamaica use to say in the eighty’s when poor folks were the only ones being slathered by the police. They used to say you are all criminals that’s why the polices are killing you. Now that the police has turned to guns on them, now they know what it feels like.

      You do not combat crime by abusing people’s rights, this is very counter productive and only serves to alienate the same people you are trying to get info from.

      Police can be aggressive without abusing their authority. People are calling for more aggressive policing when dealing with criminals, they are not asking the police to violate the rights of everyone who is a suspect.

      Remember, violence begets violence. So be careful what you ask for, you might just get it, literally.

  11. Face the Nation says:

    Maybe a self governing body such as the court of appeals ; made up of retired judges , lawyers and civil servants from every jurisdiction in the commonwealth .

  12. Terry says:

    “Foreigners”……..

    Listen up you speak truth. Your comments cover so much. These officers that pushed down and assaulted this girl were they balck, white, …but you already covered that with your comment that they were not Bermudian.

    Would it make a differance if it were a white office, black officer who showed his warrant card with country of birth?

    And why would you Patricia say that one bad apple screws it up for all.

  13. SMDH!! says:

    Police the Police!! I agree!!

    • Terry says:

      SMDH……..You’ll be shakin more than that. You guys don’t get ir do you.

      It’s by design…( not the Police)

      It’s all kept in “CABINETS”…get it?

      Old Mother Paula went to the cupboard………………

      Whale Bones on beaches and footprints in the sand covered by a rising tide………………………………………….Classic………………….

  14. frustrated 2 says:

    Two years ago I had a burglary/theft from my home. I gave the police more assistance than they could have ever dreamed of. Despite two visits from them after the incident, by accident I find out that they had not , and still to this day , taken an official statement … That’s what I would like an independant overseer for .
    Four months ago another theft of property outside the house was reported to the police. During the (one) visit I got I virtually solved the case for them.
    Haven’t heard a word back since … Another reason I’d like an independant overseer body !

    And as far as how wonderful Bermudian cops are .. have you ever had to really convince them that you want to report an incident and then watch them take notes ?

    Sorry , but it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
    (And yes , I’m more Bermudian than anyone who might be tempted to pull that crap about ‘go back to where you came from’ or ‘you must be a foreigner ’cause Bermies don’t say things like that)

  15. BdaPapa says:

    I agree with a separate organization to police the police. BUT why would he say that he wants his fingerprints and DNA taken off the list? This sounds like someone who may have something to hide. I think everyone should submit their fingerprints and DNA and guess what would happen to the crime rate? Drop like a sack of stones!

    • Nzumba Ndombe says:

      Since the BPS is so enthusiastically sequestering DNA from what I would assume are predominantly black males, perhaps they could go a step further and tell us what tribes in Africa we are from :-)

    • Free Thinker says:

      You are threading in very dangerous waters, with that naive way of thinking. You are only saying that because being in this little box, you have not experience the real world. You have no idea how dangerous that can be in the hands of a very corrupt individual.

      Please get yourself aware of what goes on throughout the rest of the world and you will be enlightened. And don’t think for a minute it wont happen here.

  16. LUJ says:

    FACT

    The Police Conduct Unit – PCU comes under the BPS and complaints can be given there.
    The Police Complaints Authority – PCA comes under the Ministry of National Security.

    They are 2 separate bodies.

    • True says:

      FACT

      The BPS also comes under the Ministry of National Security.
      They may be two separate bodies but they are under control by one Government.

  17. Erica says:

    Wow. I was watching a program on tv the other day that showed people getting processed in American jails…the simplest wrong move had the people thrown to the ground and jumped on by no less than 3 or 4 officers it did not matter if the person was male or female large or small…they have restraining chairs where people are held down like animals and have masks placed over there faces when the prisoners spit….I thought thank God it is not that bad here….people make me laugh always complaining about the police. When people are asked to stop and continue to ride and are then chased you have no right to complain about being pushed to the ground when arrested…you put the lives of those chasing you and innocent members of the public in danger too. As far as arresting the young lady I cannot comment and if you have witnessed something untoward there is a Police complaints department. I was a junior cadet in high school and wanted to become an officer…thank goodness that I didn’t because it truly is a thankless job….people love to find fault in everything they do. And we have foreign officers because we need them for manpower….if they don’t come from the islands or England where on earth would you suggest they be recruited from? A non English speaking country?! So many people with so much negativity towards the police…well I for one am THANKFUL to the men and women Bermudian or not who bust their arses day and night….answering everything from domestic disputes to traffic accidents and everything in between!!