Thursday, March 4, 2021
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
NATIONAL Security Minister Marvin Dames said police officers are using 120 body cameras with more expected to be rolled out.
“There has been a procurement of 200 body-worn and 200 dash cameras since the programme went live in August of 2020,” he said during the mid-year budget debate in the House of Assembly yesterday.
“The systems are attached to officers in the mobile patrol unit, the flying squad and the rapid response unit. These are the persons who are on the streets engaging daily with members of the public. To date, 120 body-worn cameras have been deployed in operational command and 20 at the Cable Beach Police Station. The remaining 80 are being upgraded with the necessary specs while officer training is ongoing and these technologies are being supported by policies that govern their use.”
Mr Dames said 18 dash cameras have been installed, with the rest awaiting vehicle upgrades and officer training before they can be used.
“To date, almost 4,000 recordings have occurred with the dash camera technology so it proves that it is working,” he said.
“We are a government of transparency. Of the amount, one request was made for footage to aid in a police complaint and one request to aid in a police investigation. These investments are worth every single dollar and they bring about a greater degree of accountability, improve the transparency of the police force and it mitigates against any complaints against police officers and brings those officers who are acting contrary to policies and the law to the forefront and to justice.”
Mr Dames said 44 percent or 463 gunshots in 2020 were confirmed by ShotSpotter technology, resulting in 13 arrests.
“This is a significant percentage given the fact that ShotSpotter sensors have not been installed to cover all areas of New Providence,” he said.
“I often like to tell the story of a suspect who after robbing a hardworking woman returning from work to her home, he left with a bag and decided that he wanted to celebrate and so he started to fire off a gun in the air in celebration, but that’s what triggered the police. Police responded almost immediately and the subject decided to engage the officers on seeing them, which resulted in an unfortunate outcome for the suspect.”
At least two people died through police-involved killings last month.
Mr Dames said: “Whenever it is found that a police officer is acting inconsistent with the laws of this nation and the policies of his organisation or agency, he or she will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law. But after having said that, I would’ve said earlier that firearms are the weapons of choice. We are no longer in the 70s or 60s where you get into a fight, you throw rock or bottle. We are in an era where some in our nation continue percent to defy authority and to take on police officers as if they are acting out a scene in a movie.”
“No one likes to see anyone shot and every shooting deserves a thorough investigation and whenever an officer is at fault he or she must suffer the consequences, but I cannot say that if the duty of a police officer is to ensure the laws of this land are upheld and he or she is confronted with misguided individuals who feel that they are empowered to take on law enforcement with AK-47s and weapons of that kind, to take on trained individuals who are sworn to protect us, then they are doing it at their own peril. I send a warning out to all of those young men in particular who feel so emboldened that by carrying a handgun or an assault rifle puts them on top of the world, please, please, reconsider and rethink and think before you act because you will not succeed.”
Mr Dames noted that in 2020 overall crime has decreased by about 16 percent compared to 2019, according to police statistics.
“Significant decreases were observed in a number of serious offence categories,” he said, “including murder, which declined by some 23 percent, armed robbery which declined by some 41 percent and attempted rape which declined by some 38 percent. It is not lost on us that rape increased by eight between 2019 and 2020.”
Mr Dames also noted that 406 new police officers have been hired since the start of the Minnis administration.
A manpower audit in 2018 said an additional 791 constables were needed to help police fulfil their mandate.
Mr Dames said the government is seeking to recruit 385 new police officers.