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The debate over the workload of police

Published: Oct 15, 2013

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After complaining that officers of the Royal Bahamas Police Force are tired after working 12-hour shifts for weeks, Police Staff Association (PSA) Executive Chairman Dwight Smith has now threatened to take legal action if the organization doesn’t hear from government officials about compensation for officers.

The PSA sent a letter to Prime Minister Perry Christie outlining the laws that dictate when government employees should receive overtime pay.  Smith said on Friday he is willing to give the Ministry of Finance two weeks to outline what compensation – whether monetary or in the form of vacation time – the government is willing to offer officers.  He said officers have worked the extra hours for a month with no additional pay and the PSA feels “insulted” that the government has not come to the table to discuss police officers’ concerns over compensation even after having communicated them to Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage.

Nottage has said he is “not deaf” to the PSA’s calls for compensation.

However, the minister did not say when or if police officers will be compensated for working longer hours.

Nottage said any changes to the current crime strategy will be based on advice from Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade.

In response to Smith over the weekend, Assistant Police Commissioner Leon Bethell insisted police are not tired.  He said officers are prepared to work 12-hour shifts for as long as it takes to get crime levels down.

“We are going to continue with our 12-hour shifts to make sure that we bring things under control so that anybody who believes that they can come out on the road, commit a crime and get away, they are going to have something coming because the officers are motivated,” he said.

“These officers, they are not tired.  I am not tired.  I cannot get tired.  These officers will be out here to deal with all the crooks who believe that the police are going to ease up with this 12-hour shift.  We are not going to ease up with this 12-hour shift.  A lot of things are happening for the Bahamian people.”

Police were placed on 12-hour shifts in early September after an increase in violent crime.  Twelve murders were recorded in a 13-day period.

The government should follow the law when it comes to compensating officers.  They should get what they are due.  However, Smith and his association are doing a disservice to the men and women of the force through their rhetoric.  It is clear they oppose the shifts and they will do whatever it takes to derail this component of the new crime initiative.

No one thinks that 12-hour shifts are a permanent solution to the high rate of crime in New Providence.  But we all should agree that extraordinary measures are required at this time to help restore order to our main island.  This means that the quasi-military force will be called on to do more.

The force needs to be permanently remobilized to place more officers in patrolling units – be it foot patrol, bicycle patrol or in cars.  While this is happening, and we hope this is happening, those on the force who have not been doing enough for a while should gladly step forward for their country.

It is sad to witness the leadership of the association representing frontline officers complain weekly about work during a time of crisis for the country.  Officers must remember what they signed up for when they joined the force.  They are not like unionized workers.  While police officers are entitled to compensation for their work, an element of sacrifice for the nation is also an obligatory part of the job.  Those who would like to work only eight hours per day and never be bothered to do more should consider another profession.

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