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Expert to modernise police discipline regime

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A leading authority on improving professional standards within police services has arrived in Bermuda to help formulate plans to modernise the force's disciplinary regime.

Victor Marshall will be meeting with key stakeholders in the Bermuda Police Service and the community to explore how the present system, which is more than 40 years old, can be updated.

The professional standards co-ordinator for the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales was responsible for implementing the recommendations of an independent review of the police disciplinary system in England and Wales, and creating the legislation and regulatory framework for the system.

Mr Marshall, a retired detective superintendent, also advised ministers and forces on all aspects of the police complaints system, and dealing with misconduct, unsatisfactory performance and attendance procedures.

His visit follows the announcement in the Throne Speech that the Bermuda Government would introduce legislation to replace the old “out of step” discipline process contained in The Police (Discipline) Orders 1975.

It comes at a time when Michael DeSilva, the Commissioner of Police, acknowledged there was concern over force morale in light of recent redundancies and uncertainty over negotiations between the Police Association and the Government.

Mr DeSilva told The Royal Gazette that a new disciplinary regime was “vital” to the service.

“We need to change the paradigm away from solely punishment,” he added. “At the moment an officer who commits gross misconduct and an officer who is late both go through the same disciplinary procedure. That is why we need a disciplinary code.

“Our single performance indicator is public confidence, in other words how safe people feel. That feeling of safety comes from how we carry out our duties and whether when an officer's conduct is called to account we have a system people believe in.

“If an officer is disciplined, cautioned or found not guilty there has to be confidence that the system has worked properly.”

Mr DeSilva's comments come after a landmark Supreme Court ruling last month against the office of the Commissioner of Police for discriminating against a British police officer who was unfairly passed over for promotion.

A month earlier, The Royal Gazette reported how morale within the BPS had been “seriously affected” by confidential data detailing the performance of contracted officers being circulated within the organisation, for which Mr DeSilva apologised to the Police Association.

Mr DeSilva said: “Morale is very difficult to measure or quantify — we rely on the mood and feedback from staff.

“Right now they are very concerned about the future that will determine what happens with their pay and conditions of service.

“The Police Association is at odds with the Government and that matter needs to be resolved.

“When you have uncertainty it will always play into people's minds and I am a bit concerned about that.”

Referring specifically to the Michael Harkin ruling, he said: “It is not for me to comment on a ruling by the Chief Justice and it is certainly not for me to take issue with it.

“We have learnt to be very careful about how we apply the rules and standards in the organisation.

“What was interesting is that the Chief Justice said in his ruling that there was no evidence of conscious discrimination. That is the point I made from the outset and why I appealed the case.

“It has been a learning point for us that we need to sharper in the way we apply the standards.”

Mr DeSilva outlined yesterday the service's 2016 strategic plan to tackle crime, engage with the community, make the roads safer, invest in people and optimise technology.

He acknowledged that dealing with budget cuts had been “no easy task” and said the service would explore options to improve efficiency by consolidating people, places and responsibilities.

Changes ahead: Michael DeSilva, the Commissioner of Police, said a new disciplinary code was needed (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published December 10, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated December 10, 2015 at 11:24 am)

Expert to modernise police discipline regime

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