Policing prioritised over paperwork, Acting Commissioner says
Administrative tasks in the police service have been sidelined because of job cuts, it was claimed yesterday.
Acting Commissioner of Police Darrin Simons said that there had been “a real fight” on where to deploy police officers.
But he added it was finally agreed that fighting crime took priority over paperwork.
Mr Simons was speaking as he outlined crime statistics for 2018 and 2019, which were released last week.
He admitted that the 2018 statistics were late because of “an oversight” that only became evident after The Royal Gazette asked for them several times.
But he added that the collection of statistics had slowed down because of staff shortages.
“There was a point in time when we were able to produce these quicker and there was one individual whose full-time job was to do that.
“That was a senior investigator and it requires that level of experience to make some decisions about what the principal offences are and to liaise on a daily basis with investigators,” said Mr Simons.
“There was a real fight within the organisation about keeping that individual there or putting them in the criminal investigations division to actually investigate crime.
“It has come down to having to choose between generating statistics rather than providing a response on the road.
“That’s the choice we made – we exist to make Bermuda safer, not make stats quick.”
He highlighted the number of road traffic accidents on the island in his summary of the statistics.
Mr Simons said that in the five years between 2015 and 2019, one person died on the roads every 34 days on average and that someone was severely injured every four days.
The statistics showed that there were two collisions on the roads every 14 hours on average.
Mr Simons said: “These are sobering statistics.”
He added there had been a “notable increase” in the number of traffic tickets issued – up from 9,786 in 2018 to 14,037 in 2019.
Mr Simons said that demonstrated an increased commitment to cracking down on traffic crime.
He added that the commitment had been maintained in 2020 and this year through Operation Vega.
“What you’re definitely going to see in the reports coming out in 2020, 2021 and onwards is those numbers of traffic enforcement are going to remain high – it’s something that we’re asking our officers to do.
“We’re engaging with the Road Safety Council around education and awareness types of programmes and we’re also engaging with the ministry around looking at traffic fine levels and also there are discussions about road design because of the number of frequent accident spots. So in terms of addressing driver behaviour directly, it’s about education and enforcement.
“Accidents are about choices that drivers make. Those are our primary efforts and I think in time we’re going to see some declines in road traffic accidents.
“We’ve already seen declines in numbers of impaired driving and that’s without a doubt due to enforcement.”
Mr Simons predicted that some crime categories such as traffic offences may come down this year because public safety measures such as curfews brought in because of the coronavirus pandemic cut down the number of people using the roads.
He said: “Without a doubt the lack of ability to move around the road will impact the levels of enforcement and the levels of offences.”
Mr Simons did not discuss in detail the high proportion of arrests of Black people in recent years.
The figures showed that 3,037 or 88 per cent of the 3,548 arrests made were Black in 2019 and Whites made up only six per cent or 223 arrests.
Mr Simons said: “The causes of crime and the reasons for crime are complex.”
“I think the answers to the different numbers of Black and White are a bit because of population and because of the social factors that exist in Bermuda.
“Beyond that it would be difficult for me to articulate why that is the case.”
He also addressed the increasing number of sexual assaults in recent years. In 2019, 50 sexual assaults were committed, with 26 arrests made. In 2015, 35 sex offences were reported.
Mr Simons said: “In sexual assaults, one of the issues that every modern police force faces is the willingness of victims to comes forward and one of the views is that when police put more energy in raising people’s awareness and creating a climate for people to make reports, more reports are being made.
“So it’s difficult to say whether or not more reports is a representation of more happening in the community as opposed to a greater willingness for victims to come forward.
“In terms of the arrest rate I’m very confident that the women and men that are dedicated to doing this job are doing the absolute best that they can. Generally speaking, Bermuda has a very good arrest and conviction rate relative to the offence rate.”