Frederick Penny Bean (1936-2018)
Frederick “Penny” Bean, the first Bermudian-born constable promoted to Commissioner of Police, has died at age 82.
During his 34 years of service, Mr Bean earned the Colonial Police Medal for Meritorious Service, awarded to him after the Chief Justice at the time commended him for disarming an armed robber.
Mr Bean joined what was then the Bermuda Police Force in June 1956, aged just 19, and was appointed to the top job in 1981, and retired on March 23, 1990. He was the first black person to hold the post.
Upon retirement, he was named to the Order of the British Empire. He also earned the Colonial Police Long Service Medal and the Queen’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service.
During his time in the senior leadership of the police, Mr Bean forged closer ties to UK, US and Canadian national police services, established a joint police and customs drug importation squad.
Mr Bean created the Police Community Relations programme, the first fraud squad, improved living quarters for single officers, and improvement on internal communications, particularly a sophisticated secure multichannel radio system, the combined Operations Centre at Prospect and the emergency 911 system.
At his retirement, Mr Bean told The Royal Gazette: “I have enjoyed every moment of it. I have no regrets, and if I had a choice to do it all over again, I would not hesitate. I hope my tour of service will serve as an inspiration to other young Bermudians coming along.”
Offering condolences, Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, said: “As the first Bermudian to hold the post of Commissioner of Police, Mr Bean leaves a legacy that will for ever be etched in history and our memories.
“Bermuda will be ever grateful for his life and contributions, and we will all mourn his passing.”
Steven Corbishley, the Commissioner of Police, spoke last night on the “powerful sentiments” expressed by serving and former officers on Mr Bean’s character.
Mr Corbishley said they showed Mr Bean’s profound impact on the development of officers, as well as “his love and unwavering support of the Bermuda Police Service”.
He added: “On February 21, 1981, Mr Bean made history when he became the first Bermudian-born officer to rise from the rank of constable to commissioner.”
Mr Corbishley said: “In 1959, he was posted as a Criminal Investigation Division constable under the legendary ‘Bo’ Swainson.”
“Penny” Bean — so named at birth because of his size and colour — wanted to become a soldier with the Bermuda Militia Artillery, but was discouraged from joining by his father.
He also took night courses to become a motor mechanic but when Royal Navy operations shut down in the late 1950s, he looked towards work in Hamilton, working eventually for what would become Bermuda Motors on Church Street.
A friend of his family’s, Milton Cholmondley, suggested he join the police, with Mr Bean later telling The Royal Gazette: “I felt that I needed to serve my country, and at the same time, be working in a disciplined environment.”
By 1962, Mr Bean attended a detective training course at Peel House, in London, and also was attached to the New Scotland Yard for extra training.
Upon his return from Britain, he was promoted to detective sergeant and was transferred to the Western Division.
In 1965, he was transferred to the newly formed Narcotics Department as the officer in charge.
Mr Corbishley said: “During his time in CID, he and his team made several arrests which led to a number of prosecutions.
“Mr Bean rapidly moved through the ranks and was promoted to chief inspector in 1971, and just two short years later he was promoted to the rank of superintendent and transferred to the Special Branch.
“During his time, he oversaw many advances such as police communications and computerisation.”
The commissioner added: “Mr Bean was also a believer in the parish constable concept of policing.
Mr Bean returned to uniformed operations as a superintendent and attended the Overseas Command course for senior police at Branshill National Police College in England.
His promotion to commissioner in March coincided with the general strike and high political tensions of 1981.
Of that time, Mr Bean said: “I had my baptism of fire in April 1981 when we had civil disobedience and major labour problems throughout the island.”
Mr Corbishley concluded: “I would like, on behalf of the service, to extend my sincere condolences to the family of Mr Bean.”
More police tributes to Mr Bean will be given in the days ahead, the commissioner added.
Former commissioner Jonathan Smith said the island had lost “a giant of a man”.
He said: “Commissioner Bean had an unparalleled conviction, and he needed it.”
Mr Smith noted that Mr Bean had worked during a time of systemic racism.
“He was commissioner during most of my early years with the BPS and he possessed a strategic vision, the likes of which the force hadn’t seen until then,” Mr Smith said.
“He was directly responsible for expanding the technical support units in the 1980s along with the introduction of the force’s first computerised Incident Management System integrated with a modern radio system. He was clear about how to improve policing in Bermuda.”
Mr Bean was the subject of “hundreds of stories”, Mr Smith said.
“At times, a rigid disciplinarian; at other times, a gentle, caring, humble man who cared deeply about people.”
Mr Smith recalled being sent to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Miami office in 1988 to investigate a murder linked with the island.
“Commissioner Bean, who was in Florida at the time, came to the office to be briefed on the investigation. He was determined to ensure we had resources required to complete a complex multi-jurisdictional murder,” he said.
“He was sensitive to the fact that I had spent a protracted time away from my young family. That was his human touch.
“He had an extraordinary ability to relate to all within the police, regardless of rank.
“Long before the advent of mobile phones and e-mail, he knew the value of connecting face-to-face.”
Mr Smith added: “I am so saddened to hear of his death. He was the finest of his generation and I will for ever hold him in the highest of respect.”
Roger Sherratt, a former chief inspector, said that Mr Bean “came into office at a very different time in Bermuda”.
He said: “He was the right man for the job at the right time. He was a disciplinarian who was very concerned about the welfare of officers.
“He was instrumental in making sure that police officers had access to the Employee Assistance Programme.
“He was also a founding member of the police choir, which ran 30 years from 1963 to 1993.
“We send our sincerest condolences to his wife, Romaine, and their daughters, Rachel and Gina, and their families.”