PSA hits back at Bell
Guardian Staff Reporter
Published: Oct 28, 2013
Police Staff Association (PSA) Executive Chairman Dwight Smith yesterday accused Minister of State for National Security Keith Bell of trying to turn the issue of police compensation into a political fight.
On Friday, Bell accused the PSA of being a “tool of the Free National Movement”.
But Smith called the claim “absolutely ridiculous”.
Smith said he believes that Bell was trying to divert the attention away from the real issue.
The PSA has been demanding extra compensation for officers who were placed on 12-hour shifts in early September in response to a rise in the level of violent crimes.
“He’s turning it into a political fight,” he said. “There is no other reason why he would be saying that [the PSA] is a tool for the FNM, unless he’s experiencing the same thing that we [are suffering from], which is fatigue.”
Speaking to the issue on Friday, Bell said, “The police officers, in my humble opinion, and I have spoken to them on any number of occasions, even as early as this morning...are not complaining. It is the executives of the association and their personal grievance.
“They have always been a tool of the Free National Movement and I would ask them to refrain from that.”
But Smith said the PSA is merely fighting for what it believes is right.
“The Police Staff Association represents over 2,000 police officers,” Smith said. “Are you telling me that all of them are FNM?
“People are trying to speak for their rights. This is a labor friendly government. We are not trying to fight against a crime initiative.”
Smith noted that other associations and unions have been fighting for their rights recently and have not faced such accusations.
“I don’t want to focus the attention on [Bell]. The focus should be on the issue, which is compensation for police officers,” Smith said.
He invited Bell to meet with the association.
“He is a part of us,” said Smith, referring to Bell, who is a former police officer. “We have not gotten rid of him. We invite him to come and sit down with us.”
FNM Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis also rejected Bell’s claim yesterday, branding his accusation a “threat to democracy”.
"Is Bell saying once you speak out on what you think is right, you are now a tool for the FNM?” Minnis asked. “He's saying that he doesn't believe in democracy.
“He needs to listen to the voice of the people. The people are speaking out against the government's mismanagement.
“…The people have a right to speak out and defend and look for what they interpret to be right and just. That's democracy.”
Bell also accused the PSA of attempting to “usurp the authority” of National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage by sending a letter to Prime Minister Perry Christie about the matter of compensation.
But Smith said if Bell believes that is true, he should meet with the organization instead of the press.
He added that the PSA will not back down over its demand for compensation.