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Public confidence in law enforcement agencies

Published: Sep 04, 2013

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Dear Editor,

Decades ago when illegal immigrants were arrested they were interviewed, fingerprinted, photographed and charged before a Magistrate, like other offenders of the laws of The Bahamas.

In court they had the opportunity to plea and to offer any explanations in their defense, e.g., that they are seeking economic or political asylum.

They were able to communicate with consular representatives.

The Magistrate would normally impose a sentence with an order for early deportation even before completion of the sentence.

Requests for asylum would be investigated and considered by the appropriate authorities.

The sentences were served at Fox Hill Prison.

Through skillful interrogation the police would very often be able to identify the captain and crew of the boats that brought the immigrants to these shores.

They were charged with more serious offenses and heavier sentences imposed, and in some cases both fines and imprisonment.

In the ensuing years and with the overcrowding at Fox Hill Prison the Carmichael Road Detention Centre was built miles away from the prison.

Arrested illegal immigrants are taken there directly after their arrest. As far as I am aware there is no fingerprinting, no photographing and I have my doubts about the interrogation to identify the captain and crew. It appears that all of the persons arrested are taken to the detention center to be held for deportation. Punishment of those captains and crew appear to be non-existent.

For several decades governments of The Bahamas have ignored the fact that we have an efficient police force with experienced, efficient and effective personnel to investigate any incidents and/or conduct background checks on persons or firms arriving here to conduct business or reside in our country.

We have Interpol-Bahamas, which is connected with their counterparts all over the world. It is not difficult for Interpol-Bahamas to acquire information on persons or firms arriving here to conduct business or to reside.

It is notable that governments of the past few decades have completely ignored the police when considering conducting investigations into matters, some of which may provide information for criminal prosecution. The background investigations of persons and firms arriving here to do business appear to be non-existent.

This statement is supported by the fact that there have been so many foreign residents wanted abroad for criminal prosecution. There are also those foreigners who acquired permanent resident status, who would have been denied such status if their background had been properly checked.

Unfortunately, a few of the latter continue to be involved in criminal activities.

Governments have ignored the investigation capabilities of the police and have appointed others, including politicians and ministers of religion to be the investigators.

The current matter involving Cuban detainees at the Detention Centre appears to indicate a lack of communication among the authorities.

Over the past decades the commissioner of police reported weekly to the prime minister and the minister of national security. He briefs them on crime, the police service, matters of national security and any incidents occurring that could cause police commendation or police criticism. He is expected to report on human rights violations and complaints brought to his attention.

The same method of reporting should apply to the heads of all of the law enforcement agencies. If this reporting is made mandatory the appropriate ministers of government would be briefed on all incidents and would be kept informed of the action being taken.

There must be no outside interference. The investigation of all such incidents is the responsibility of the head of the agency.

It is very important that the public, through the media, be made aware of the action being taken in such matters. This augurs well for public confidence in the law enforcement agencies.

— Paul Thompson Sr.

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