Police murder team loses nine staff
The police team that investigates all murders and shootings has lost nine of its staff, despite a $2.7 million funding boost pledged in the Budget.
The staff members were retired senior police officers from the UK, brought to Bermuda as consultants in January 2010 following an outbreak of gun crime.
They have experience on major investigations in their homeland and are understood to have played a significant role in recent cases where gunmen have been brought to justice.
The consultants have been reviewing unsolved murders and working on new cases. Acting Commissioner of Police Mike Jackman said the consultants had “served the purpose of adding capacity at a time when it was most needed”.
However, news that their jobs have been discontinued prompted concern from both opposition political parties.
Nine men have been shot dead since the consultants arrived in January 2010. Seven of those cases remain unsolved, while charges are before the courts in two others.
Commissioner of Police Michael DeSilva told the consultants earlier this month that their contracts are not being renewed.
The Royal Gazette understands the announcement was made around the time of Bermuda's second murder of the year so far; that of 26-year-old Jamiko LeShore in Devonshire on March 1.
Two of the consultants flew home on Thursday night. Four more finish work at the end of the month. Two others resigned earlier this year due to uncertainty over whether their contracts would be renewed. The other left a few months ago and was not replaced.
The loss of the nine consultants means the murder investigation team, which is called the special investigations unit, has seen its total staff depleted by approximately a third.
Although the overall police budget was slashed by $7.5 million in this year's Budget, Minister Without Portfolio Michael Weeks announced on February 28 that an extra $2.7 million had been allocated to the murder team. He said the funding would “would assist a critical investigation team investigating all murder and shooting cases”.
It was unclear yesterday whether the remaining team will still benefit from the extra cash or if some of it has been reallocated in light of the decision not to renew the consultants' contracts.
Asked to comment on the news, Acting Commissioner Mr Jackman said: “The Bermuda Police Service is still working with the Minister of National Security to look at the impact of the budget on our operations and developing plans so that there is no fall off in the energy being put into addressing gangs, guns and violent crime.
“The departure of the overseas investigators was anticipated as their contracts were set to expire this month. Their last two engagements over 12 months served the purpose of adding capacity at a time when it was most needed. The Bermuda Police Service is committed to preserving and building on the successes we have had in the investigation of serious crime.”
Shadow Minister of National Security Michael Dunkley said: “Information such as this is most concerning”.
He added: “Furthermore, in light of this Ministry and the [Budget] head for the police already being discussed in the House [of Assembly] with no mention of these changes, one wonders what is really going on.”
Sen Dunkley said he and his colleagues are concerned about the rise in violent crime, gang and gun violence, as is the community at large.
“Obviously with the drastic rise in murders and the need to investigate and bring the offenders to justice the police are under extreme pressure to get the job done. We must make sure the police have the tools at their disposal to meet this challenge and to do so bearing in mind the economic crunch that we face,” he said.
Party colleague Trevor Moniz, the Shadow Justice Minister, did not wish to comment on the consultants' contracts not being renewed. He said in general terms, however, “the proposed reduction of funding to the police is of great concern”.
Mark Pettingill of the Bermuda Democratic Alliance said: “The one thing that this Government is consistent about is being inconsistent. They made great fanfare about getting these police experts in and now they have sent them packing just when they appear to have contributed to making inroads.”
Minister of National Security David Burch, declined a request for comment on this story.