‘People gave verdict on protest at election’

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  • Lawrence Scott MP (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

    Lawrence Scott MP (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Pepper-sprayed MP Lawrence Scott yesterday said that a new report on the December 2 protest at the House of Assembly did not speak as loudly as last month’s election result.

Mr Scott added that the results of the General Election on July 18 gave him more closure on the incident than the report from the Police Complaints Authority released this week.

“July 18 was basically a report on the last five years,” the Warwick South East Progressive Labour Party MP said.

The report — the final of three ordered following the incident — criticised the leadership and planning behind the police response on December 2, 2016, which included the use of Captor pepper spray on protesters, including Mr Scott, but cleared individual officers of wrongdoing.

It concluded that the confrontation had left a “scar on Bermuda’s history”.

Mr Scott, who said he had “skimmed” the report, said the real question that needed to be addressed was what had brought protesters out in the first place.

“What led up to December 2 — that’s what has to be looked at, versus what happened on December 2,” he said.

The One Bermuda Alliance Government, he said, had “disenfranchised” every segment of Bermuda, including seniors, the church community, and teachers and created a “powder keg environment”.

He added: “The slightest thing would have set it all off.”

Michael DeSilva, Commissioner of the Bermuda Police Service, acknowledged that the actions of police at the protest had left some members of the community angry and disconnected.

“We continue to work to heal that wound by demonstrating that we have taken the lessons on board,” Mr DeSilva said in a statement issued yesterday afternoon.

“We know that the ability of the police to do our job effectively relies on strong trust and support from the public.”

He said the BPS acknowledged the findings of the report.

“We accept the determination that police officers did not act negligently or with misconduct is an appropriate finding based on the evidence,” Mr DeSilva said.

He added that views expressed about mistakes made by senior officers “thoroughly covered” in an earlier report came as “no surprise”.

Mr DeSilva said: “In my statement in March in reply to the (National Police Co-ordination Centre) report, I acknowledged the findings of the report and I accepted the ten recommendations it made.”

He said that work on addressing some of the identified areas with deficiencies had already begun, with additional training taking place later this year.

“We will do our part to manage protests appropriately in Bermuda,” he added.

Michael Dunkley, the former premier, described December 2 as “a day when political scheming, law breaking and official actions collided to create a day no Bermudian can be happy with”.

Mr Dunkley said he was confident the BPS would “consider all recommendations” from the reports on the incident and “take every necessary step to improve policing, protect public safety and enforce the laws of Bermuda for the benefit of all residents”.

He pointed to the latest report, and the two previous ones, which “unequivocally dispels misinformation” suggesting the OBA government was responsible for the police decision to use pepper spray.

Mr Dunkley quoted a statement made by Wayne Caines, Minister of National Security, in which he described the report’s findings as “disturbing and lacking the closure only proper accountability can bring”.

Mr Dunkley said: “I hope he finds his colleagues accountable.

“I suggest one cannot have a complete assessment of December 2 without questioning the actions of everyone involved and that included members of the PLP.

“After all, we are all in this together and we must all be responsible for our actions.”

In a statement released yesterday morning, Mr Caines said: “Ordinary citizens rely on public bodies and institutions to ensure accountability for actions taken and decisions made.

“People must have confidence that where one body gets it wrong, another will make it right. I have shared my views on the decision with the PCA’s chairman, the Governor and the Commissioner,” he said.

Mr Caines said that the path forward began “with accountability for what the PCA refers to as the ‘lack of planning and poor communication’ that led to the events of this terrible day”.

He said discussions regarding accountability would continue with Mr DeSilva and Governor John Rankin.

Mr Caines added: “Both this decision and the NPoCC report of January 2017 speak to significant needs within the BPS related to planning and training.

“The Commissioner’s acceptance of and action on the recommendations is an important and encouraging step in the process.

“I am committed to supporting the Commissioner and his senior command team in securing that training as we must ensure that this kind of event does not happen again.”

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Published Aug 12, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 12, 2017 at 12:20 am)

‘People gave verdict on protest at election’

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