By Howard R. Johnson/ Former FNM candidate for South and Central Eleuthera
My condolences to the families of the recent murder victims in Fox Hill and all those who lost loved ones to murder in 2013.The recent massacre in Fox Hill underscores the serious nature of crime in our beloved Commonwealth. As Bahamians assess these recent senseless killings and review bloody 2013 in the days and weeks to come, blame will undoubtedly be cast in many places. Nevertheless, WE as a nation must now develop and adopt new approaches to combating crime and the criminal element. Some of these approaches are as follows:
1. We, the Bahamian people, must accept and understand that no Government, Prime Minister, Political Party, Minister of National Security, Commissioner of Police, Police Force, community or individual is unilaterally responsible for dealing with crime.
2. There must be a general acceptance and “buy-in” among Bahamians that crime will not cease to exist or be eradicated. Thus, our goal must be the EFFECTIVE management of crime. To achieve this, the Government of The Bahamas (PLP or FNM) must immediately embark upon a continuous program of citizen engagement and community empowerment. This program should be executed via a strategic series of forums throughout the country. These forums should explore the root causes of crime, the motivation of offenders, promulgate crime preventions strategies, and educate citizens on their roles and responsibilities and the roles and responsibilities of other “partners” in the fight against crime.
3. We, the Bahamian people, must discontinue the superficial claim that crime is EVERYONE’S responsibility while choosing our involvement to only include informing others of the latest shooting, robbery or murder and deciding to whom we should affix blame. Instead, we must seek to establish individual and community partnerships with law enforcement and assist them wherever possible in bringing criminals to justice. Moreover, we must also resist the visceral urge to categorize members of law enforcement as the enemy.
4. Both major political parties and politicians therein must discontinue the practice of using crime as a political football. In this regard, we alternate blaming the other for crime in Opposition, while simultaneously promising to “stop” or “eradicate” crime upon becoming the Government. These unscrupulous practices provide citizens with a false sense of hope and security and add to the already existing negative view of politicians. Therefore, as political parties and politicians, we must seek to offer creative, plausible solutions and policies for managing crime in government while presenting as a “single partner” among others in confronting crime.
5. The Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) is doing a commendable job in combating crime and the criminal element. Nevertheless, there are those among the RBPF ranks who suffer from police cynicism and are unable to distinguish between the criminal and law abiding citizen. These few “bad apples” contribute greatly to the prevailing view among the citizenry that police do not respect them, do not care about their well-being and subsequently should not receive their cooperation. These officers must be required to participate in trainings in conflict resolution, community policing, ethics and leadership and if all else fails, weeded out of the organization.
6. The RBPF must become free of political manipulation and political interference. Provisions should be made in law via amendment to the Police Force Act, 2009 to free the Police Commissioner from appointment or removal by the Prime Minister. Incidentally, the Police Commissioner should become an elected official whose election should coincide with that of the Parliament of The Bahamas. Upon election, he should commence his duties in the national security interests of The Bahamas and the Bahamian people and free of any political considerations. However, the RBDF should continue to coordinate and liaise with the Ministry of National Security in the implementation and execution of the comprehensive national security policy of The Bahamas.
It is my sincere hope that these approaches are given much thought and consideration and utilized whole or in part to the ultimate benefit of the Commonwealth and the Bahamian people.