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Cutting Police budget is ‘mystifying’ OBA

This year’s police budget of more than $68 million won’t be enough to get the service up to full strength, Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards complained yesterday.

In his reply to the Budget, the One Bermuda Alliance MP said the Island’s gang problem remained deadly serious with well-organised groups “firmly entrenched across the Island”.

Mr Richards praised police for the proactive, tough stance he said they had taken on crime and getting convictions in recent months.

And he said it was encouraging that more members of the public were stepping forward to help them fight crime, especially where gangs and guns were concerned.

But he criticised Government for slashing the police budget to $58 million from almost $72 million last year, saying such a decision at a time when violence had “exploded in shootings and death, was as mystifying as it was unacceptable”.

He said: “The policing side of the fight is straightforward. They need to be provided with all the resources necessary to maintain effective pressure on gangs.”

Mr Richards said Bermuda Police Service was operating at close to 15 percent below its authorised manpower level and the proposed budget for 2012/13 would not close that gap.

The Budget book says BPS had 615 employees in 2011/12 and is estimated to have 560, or nine percent fewer, in the coming financial year.

The National Security Ministry said last night that the figure of 560 was comprised of 450 police officers, plus 98 support staff and 12 cadets.

A spokesman said: “That represents 20 additional police officers from the current strength of 430, the same number of support staff as last year [and] six additional police cadets.”

The Shadow Finance Minister said the other side of the fight against crime was social leadership.

“There are many excellent social agencies in operation today but there is no overall leadership, no one entity providing single-focus guidance to coordinate and focus work on the social problems that give rise to crime,” he said.

“The fragmentation extends to the Cabinet itself, where no one minister is responsible for social policy. The One Bermuda Alliance believes there is a need for a central coordinator, possibly operating out of the Cabinet Office, to make headway on the problems represented by crime and the community-based solutions and support needed to diminish them.”

He said Operation Ceasefire, the US-based anti-gang initiative which Government plans to replicate here and which the Opposition has long called for, would provide the “grassroots ability to mobilise communities and supporting organisations to wean young men away from gang life”.

A recent independent review of BPS conducted by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary concluded that police needed greater oversight, more structured annual budgeting and a senior officer to oversee gang violence reduction.

Public safety was an issue during the Budget debate in the House of Assembly.

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Published March 05, 2012 at 9:15 am (Updated March 05, 2012 at 9:15 am)

Cutting Police budget is ‘mystifying’ OBA

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