Police Special Investigation dept gets $2.7m boost
An additional $2.7 million has been allocated to the police team that investigates murders and shootings despite the overall police budget being slashed by $7.5 million.
There has been a 130 percent increase on last year's allocation to the Special Investigations Department, giving it $4.8 million towards its work in the next fiscal year. And the Police Support Unit, which provides high visibility patrols to combat antisocial behaviour, gets an extra $1.3 million, or 65 percent increase, meaning its budget for next year totals $3.4 million.
Outlining the figures in the House of Assembly this week, Minister Without Portfolio Michael Weeks said the additional funding for these areas “would assist a critical investigation team investigating all murder and shooting cases”.
The move is a “result of Government's commitment to gang suppression and reduction in other serious activities on the Island”, he added. The overall police budget was cut from $65.7 million last year to $58.2 million an eleven percent decrease. The community policing division saw 31 percent, or $8.8 million, cut from its budget.
Among the departments in that division, the central area command unit will be cut by $4 million, or 36 percent, and the eastern area command unit will be cut by $284,000, or four percent. Mr Weeks said the cuts could be attributed to “austerity measures”.
The western command unit fared better, with a six percent or $332,000 increase in its budget. The Forensic Support Unit has been given an extra five percent, or $83,000, in funding.
According to Mr Weeks, the unit has eight police officers and five civilian staff and has been affected by an increase in forensic and laboratory services costs. The unit also needs to recruit a second officer to handle fingerprint evidence. According to data supplied by the Ministry of National Security, 536kg of drugs, worth $29.5 million, were seized during 2010.
However, the drugs and intelligence division of the police has seen its budget for the next fiscal year chopped by $2 million, or 21 percent. Among the units within that division are the child victim unit and commercial crime unit, which are to receive zero funding in the coming year.
That prompted both opposition parties to raise concerns. Mr Weeks and Finance Minister Paula Cox replied that these departments have not really been allocated zero funds, it is just because budget units have been rearranged under different headings this year.
However, Trevor Moniz of the United Bermuda Party said the situation was “as clear as mud” and Mark Pettingill of the Bermuda Democratic Alliance called for more details “on these hugely important points”.
Invited by chairman of the debate John Barritt to clarify things further, Mr Weeks replied: “Some cost centres have been reallocated, there's not much more I can really add.”
Mr Weeks also outlined spending on police projects for the forthcoming fiscal year. A total of $300,000 is to be spent on refurbishing Police headquarters at Prospect. “Plans have existed for some years to rebuild Police headquarters. However, until this commences, funds are needed for renovations of existing buildings,” he said.
Meanwhile, $250,000 will be invested in a programme to replace the aging inflatable boats used by the Marine Police. The money will be used to replace one boat and buy new engines for others, according to Mr Weeks.
And $500,000 will be spent on replacing police cars. Mr Weeks said “every effort” is made to make them last as long as possible, but they suffer wear and tear as they are on the roads 24 hours a day. Upgrades to the police computer system will cost $500,000 and $150,000 will go towards new software for the serious crime unit.