Wednesday, April 7, 2021
IN this column yesterday, we discussed the principle of justice delayed being justice denied – and just how much it is delayed in the case of police-involved killings has become clearer still.
Coroner’s Court inquests into such killings have been halted since March last year because of COVID-19. They were due to resume last month, but nothing has happened yet – apparently because officials are waiting for plexiglass barriers to be erected throughout courtrooms as part of pandemic protocols.
There have been four police-related killings this year so far, adding to a backlog already stretching back too long.
PLP leader Philip “Brave” Davis is right when he says that prompt investigation of such deaths is needed to ensure public confidence in law enforcement.
He said: “One of the fundamental pillars upon which the efficacy of any police force rests would be the confidence that the general public would have, recognising that the police force is supposed to be the guardian and protector of persons, their safety, and to ensure that the peace is not breached.”
Of course, Mr Davis, in campaigning mode, then suggested he would handle such matters better than previous administrations if he was in office – which doesn’t say much for how he wielded his influence as Deputy Prime Minister.
The important thing, however, is that a timely resolution to such investigations – and calling officers to account where appropriate – gives the public confidence that these situations are being dealt with properly. It also stops such investigations hanging over the head of officers for years in cases where they acted appropriately. For the good of the public, for the good of the force, for the good of the justice system, these matters should not drag on for years.
We have a higher number of police killings than the United States, when determined per head of our population, and one of the highest in the world. Understanding what is going on with these cases can show us if there are ways we should be changing what we are doing – and bringing down that number.
We cannot learn if we don’t assess what has happened, and we cannot assess what has happened while we sit twiddling our thumbs waiting for plexiglass that surely shouldn’t be much of a hurdle to solve.
This needs to be addressed, for the longer it goes unresolved, the more our faith in our guardians is undermined.
A much-needed decision has been made to extend food assistance for those in need until the end of June.
The programme was due to finish at the end of March, so those making use of it will have been urgently waiting on the word of where their next meal was coming from.
This is the right call – although the extension could have been longer.
The goal of this scheme is simple – to keep people fed. There are many families whose breadwinners have been without a job and without pay for months now, so this helps those in the toughest of circumstances.
We need only think of the long lines at food giveaways to understand just how many Bahamians are in a desperate situation.
Bahamas Feeding Network executive director Phillip Smith was among those calling for a longer extension.
“I thought it should have gone until at least September, which again is conservative,” he said. “But you know it’s something, until the end of June. I don’t know what you think but will most people be back to normal by then?”
Do you think so? We don’t. The tourism numbers for March were encouraging but no more than that, showing the start of a recovery not the recovery itself. Will hotels be back to full employment by September? Will support businesses be able to take people back on? Will the Straw Market be open and bustling again by then? All these seem unlikely right now – and even if they were, the programme would surely scale down as the number of people being supported reduced. Extending the programme a little longer would give those making use of it a little more certainty for a little more time. That cannot be a bad thing.
“A lot of people are in need,” said Mr Smith, “What I find is not a lot of people are certain and they are out of work. Everything is shut down. They need the money to go to the store. A lot of people are quite desperate you know.”
If the deadline needs extending again, let’s do it as early as possible to try and ease that desperation.
It’s a simple need – surely we can make sure we can feed our fellow Bahamians in this toughest of times.