New commissioner out to earn trust

  • Getting to work: Stephen Corbishley is reaching out to voluntary organisations (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

    Getting to work: Stephen Corbishley is reaching out to voluntary organisations (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Bermuda’s new Commissioner of Police has “ambitious plans” for a transparent, trusted and responsive service that will give the community a say in how policing is delivered.

Stephen Corbishley will also leverage his relationship with the National Crime Agency in Britain to get “specialist support” in tackling gangs and violent crime.

The commissioner spoke with The Royal Gazette on Friday, three weeks after being sworn in as the successor to Michael Desilva, and in the wake of six arrests last week after a wave of street robberies

“What excites me in policing — it’s still about catching the bad guys,” Mr Corbishley said.

“There’s been a real buzz around the police station about the results we’ve achieved.”

Mr Corbishley shared some figures from “Operation Lightning”, a specific intelligence framework to deal with gangs, which yielded 387 arrests from September 2017 to this month, withmore than 2,000 stop and searches and nearly 40 covert operations completed.

Mr Corbishley is also keen to build relationships with United States agencies “as well as other public service providers here”, to bolster the reach of the Bermuda Police Service.

The commissioner said he wanted to build relationships with communities, from churches to shop owners, “so they can be the eyes and ears, where the amount of community intelligence we obtain becomes even greater”.

He added: “I think the public are supportive of the police. Quite often, our mistake is that when we give a bad service, that affects their confidence, but they want to support us. The bridge that we’ve got to cross is to get their confidence.”

Mr Corbishley said he was keen to introduce police community support officers to the island, civilian support staff with police powers, which has been successful in Britain.

“When it was introduced, there was a lot of criticism of policing on the cheap, when it was not,” Mr Corbishley said.

“It allows us to place very trained members of staff who have up to 60 powers available to them, which includes things like confiscation of alcohol and dealing with antisocial behaviour.

“The most important thing is they’re uniformed, they’re a visible representation of the service, and they work in a community each and every day.”

Mr Corbishley said he had discussed the idea with John Rankin, the Governor, and Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security.

“It’s a model we are going to start looking at, that we would like to take on board over the next six to 12 months,” he said.

“But on top of that, it’s how we link and work with voluntary resources. Churches can support us — again, a model I’ve used in the past is the street pastor scheme, where we engage with people and they work very visibly in local communities.

“It’s not a soft option. Street pastors, particularly in London, have had great success working with gangs, often some of the most violent people, in understanding some of the problems they face.

“The problem when we approach gangs is that if we treat them as criminals first, we often miss some of the problems underneath that can change their behaviour and divert them.”

Mr Corbishley took charge one week after a gunman opened fire at a group on Court Street, in a gang-driven attack that claimed the life of Taylor Grier, 30, and wounded a 55-year-old man.

The commissioner called firearms “an absolute priority” for the BPS but said gangs had to be tackled at the roots.

Mr Corbishley said his anti-gang strategy would include diverting youngsters caught up in crime from ending up in the courts.

“We’ve got too many fourth or fifth-generation criminals,” he said.

“I’ve spoken to officers here who will tell me they’ve arrested the grandfather, the father and the son, and now that son has got his own children, and the pathway is likely to be criminality. We’ve got to break that cycle.”

Mr Corbishley described his overall policing vision as “ensuring a safe and prosperous Bermuda”.

He added: “My philosophy is that I want us to be transparent, and gain the true trust of local communities. Part of that is having the ability to quickly admit where we have made mistakes, learn from them, and move on.

“Sometimes there’s nothing more frustrating than an incident that has gone wrong that nobody takes responsibility for. It’s not necessarily to blame; the key thing is to learn, and make sure that it does not happen again.”

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Published Aug 27, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 26, 2018 at 10:50 pm)

New commissioner out to earn trust

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