The Caribbean region is faced with gang violence and anti-social behaviour and regional cooperation is an important component of providing safe environments for our respective countries, Minister of Public Safety Michael Dunkley said today.
“21st century policing demands that law enforcement be more flexible, schooled in the latest technology and sensitive to the diverse nature of modern communities,” continued the Minister.
“It is not easy. The advent of the internet’s wide reach and the passage of information at the touch of a hand-held screen forces police services to be at the cutting edge both in thinking and operationally.”
Minister Dunkley was speaking at the 2013 Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police [ACCP] Conference which is being held at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess from April 29th to May 2nd.
ACCP members include Anguilla, Antigua, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominica, French Antilles, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Marteen, St. Vincent, Suriname, Trinidad, Turks & Caicos and the United States Virgin Islands.
Also speaking at the conference was Commissioner of Police Michael DeSilva who said, “It is indeed an honour and a privilege to host this important regional event, particularly as we are one of the smallest jurisdictions involved in the Association.
“The theme of the conference this year is ‘Police and Public Partnerships: Joining up prevention, intervention and enforcement strategies to tackle gangs and youth violence’. It is clear that there are many commonalities between the challenges faced by our respective countries: increased gang activity and the associated use of firearms to commit violent crimes is shaking community confidence and threatening international reputations. And for countries that rely on tourism and international investments, social stability is the lifeblood of a stable economy and an enjoyable quality of life.
“Whilst enforcement has been seen as a highly effective tool against violent crimes, we acknowledge that gang and youth violence is not something that any one agency can solve alone. To get ‘up stream’ of the issues and tackle the complex underlying causes and drivers to this type of criminality requires a sustainable long term partnership addressing cycles of social exclusion, education, employment, diversion and early exposure to violence.
“It is said that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” And it is my hope that by the end of this conference our members can take back strategies, operations, programmes and examples of how police and public partnerships are being effectively used to tackle gangs. Our collective learning and experiences will help to build a new platform to roll back the allure of gang lifestyles on our youth, rescue those who have already been captured, and convict those that refuse to leave,” said Commissioner DeSilva.
Minister Dunkley’s full speech follows below.:
Regional cooperation is an important component of providing safe environments for our respective countries to succeed generally and to emerge from these challenging economic times in particular.
The issues you discuss over these few days go to the very core of our survival as jurisdictions of choice in tourism, international business or any other area that either fuels or grows our respective economies.
More than ever, how we meet our daily challenges of keeping our communities safe, matters a great deal to the overall welfare of the Region.
21st century policing demands that law enforcement be more flexible, schooled in the latest technology and sensitive to the diverse nature of modern communities.
It is not easy. The advent of the internet’s wide reach and the passage of information at the touch of a hand-held screen forces police services to be at the cutting edge both in thinking and operationally.
As I look around the room I suspect that some of you were, like me, at least until recently, more rotary phone than I-Pad! However, just as we have made the change so our training and operational methodology must reflect these rapid developments in the communities we serve.
This economy has meant that police recruits are no longer only the youngsters fresh from the classroom; there are over 30s and some over 40s who now aim to wear the uniform. This is to be encouraged and high quality recruits are welcome whatever their age.
Bermuda’s constitutional position is not unique when it comes to the relationship between the police and the Government. As the Minister of Public Safety, you might say that I am the banker. We, that is to say, the Governor, the Commissioner and myself, have found a happy working medium that allows for an open exchange of views and an opportunity to share the Government’s priorities.
None of this is at the expense of the Commissioner’s operational independence and that is as it should be. Confidence in the workings of the Police Service is strengthened when all of the moving parts in the unique relationship work together and are seen to do so.
With few exceptions, the Region is faced with the phenomenon of gang violence and anti-social behaviour. This Government is fully supportive of the Police in their focus on guns, gangs, drugs and violence. Those operational priorities align with the Government’s promise to make Bermuda safer. Strong enforcement has been the order of the day and the Bermuda Police Service has an enviable record of crime prevention, investigative success and safe convictions secured as a result.
It is important for me to single out our own Commissioner Mr. Michael DeSilva. No Commissioner is required to consider the social consequences or root causes of the issues faced by law enforcement; but he does; and that is to me, a very admirable trait that the Commissioner brings to the table.
Commissioner DeSilva coined a phrase early in his tenure, which coincided with a peak period of gang related shootings.
He said: “We cannot arrest our way out of this problem”. During a meeting I had with the Commissioner a short time ago, he also said that the answer to our problems lies with a three part solution. He said the Police are part two, enforcement and he is committed to doing that job; but part one, prevention and preparation and part three, turning the lives around of those who have taken the wrong track are all equally as important.
That phrase has stuck locally and our conversation remains vivid in my memory.
This statement of fact, whether the Commissioner intended it or not, is a challenge to other agencies to match the enforcement efforts of the Police.
As Minister, I fully endorse the Commissioner’s view. The violence emerging from gang affiliations is a symptom which we in law enforcement are called upon to address. The root causes must also be addressed not simply to reduce budgets or the work of law enforcement, but to save our communities and to preserve our quality of life for future generations.
Governments both in the Region and around the world have committed significant resources to their police services in an effort to ensure that there are no barriers to returning our communities to safety. There is therefore a public expectation that police officers will be visible, reassuring and diligent in the exercise of their publicly funded function. As a politician I have a unique understanding of polls and public perception and so take it from me, what the people think about the job you’re doing is important. Statistics and data count for nothing if people do not FEEL safe. This is a battle to win the hearts and minds of the public we serve and it can be won through strong yet sensitive policing.
All of these elements support the theme for this year’s Conference: “POLICE AND PUBLIC PARTNERSHIPS: Joining up prevention, intervention and enforcement strategies to tackle gangs and youth violence.”
I expect that you will hear of our own efforts to engage a bi-partisan approach to these issues.
This work transcends the political divide and so in spite of our recent election results we have carried on some of the work of the previous government in this area and added new urgency to the areas of community involvement, gang mediation and inter-agency cooperation. Political divisions cannot be the source of failure in this area; our countries demand that we do better.
Our people expect nothing less.
In closing, let me say on behalf of the Honourable Premier, the Government and the people of Bermuda, how pleased we are to support the Commissioner’s hosting of this event. I wish you all success in your deliberations and my hope is that you find the discussions stimulating and the island of Bermuda refreshing and my fellow Bermudans friendly and most welcoming.