Commissioner hopes for budget increase to fund more officers
The head of the Bermuda Police Service hoped more money will be available in next year’s Budget to boost officer numbers.
Commissioner of Police Darrin Simons said the organisation was funded for 400 but would ideally have about 425 in its ranks.
He told The Royal Gazette that the number of BPS officers was 375 and the shortfall created challenges for serving employees.
Mr Simons also highlighted that police body cameras neared the end of their service life and there was a gap between the number of fit-for-purpose patrol cars and a suitably-sized fleet.
The commissioner said last week: “Right now we are at 375 officers, so that’s 25 down from the currently-funded establishment of 400, so that’s a lot and that’s on the back of recently turning out a recruit foundation course of 21 officers.”
He added that the difference was mostly caused by natural attrition – people retiring and leaving the organisation.
Mr Simons added: “We need to fill those numbers. We’re working hard to do that, we’re in the closing phase of identifying the next group of officers coming through.”
He explained: “All of the uniformed services are struggling to meet their recruitment needs within the local market, I think for a variety of reasons.”
Mr Simons said: “First of all, in any given society, how many people want to become police officers? I think that’s an issue, because even in other jurisdictions recruiting the numbers of police officers has been challenging.
“For us it’s fairly stringent, you can’t have notable criminal history, obviously.
“I think the drug-testing now, when we’ve more pervasive views around the use of marijuana … eliminates some people.
“We’ve got the health requirement eliminates individuals and we have the psychometric testing that will eliminate people. All in all, the standards are fairly high.”
The commissioner said that a review of recruitment standards across uniformed organisations was under way at the Ministry of National Security.
Mr Simons added: “I’m of the view that we are at a standard that shouldn’t be lowered.”
He explained: “We are where we are largely because of one, where we are in the retirement cycle; and two, two years of not being able to recruit – so Covid-19 meant that we couldn’t do our annual recruitment process that we would do.
“Covid-19 itself really impacted officers but being the 25 down, it just means that more people are doing the same amount of work and that, without a doubt, creates challenges.
“Obviously you’ve got a smaller group of people responding to calls for service, but also they can’t move around the organisation as much because there’s nobody to backfill a place, so when we want to do some additional training, people can’t always get off the watch to go into other areas, so it just creates a bit of frustration in circumstances where in the past there hasn’t been.”
Policing was allocated $62.1 million in 2022-23 – an increase of $860,000 compared with last year’s original Budget and $1.2 million more than the revised figure.
The police commissioner said it was “premature” to say what he hoped would be the Budget allocation for the BPS next year or to go into details about wish list items.
Mr Simons confirmed: “We’re looking for an increase in our budget.”
He said the funds would go towards boosting staffing levels
The commissioner added: “Previously the establishment was 425 and a number in that range would be ideal.”
He said that in terms of equipment, the service hoped to be able to change body worn cameras, which were “just now reaching the end of their service life”.
Mr Simons added: “That’s definitely a sore point for officers, a source of frustration.
“The same thing – there will be some upgrades in our Tasers, which are kind of coming to end of life also.”
Commissioner of Police Darrin Simons highlighted the importance of developing good relationships as part of his role at the head of the Bermuda Police Service.
He was formerly the Deputy Commissioner and took on the top job on an acting basis in October 2021 when Stephen Corbishley left the post.
Mr Simons was appointed to the role in March this year.
He said last week: “Some of my early reflections on that, in terms of how it’s impacted me, would definitely be, it’s a lot more stressful and there’s an awful lot going on in managing the relationships, which you don’t necessarily experience in being the deputy, and just the importance of those relationships.
“Relationships, for me, are very important.
“You make decisions, but how people feel about the people who are doing things to them is critically important, as is the decision.”
Mr Simons added: “In terms of being able to lead this organisation, I’m very proud of the Bermuda Police Service that I’ve given almost 30 years of service to.
“When I joined, I didn’t necessarily think or aspire to be the commissioner, but having been privileged to get into this position, I am very proud to lead the organisation.
“The women and men that I work with, work for and work alongside are some very special individuals that are dedicated to their task, to their craft and … the overwhelming vast majority really believe in the service that they’re providing and recognise the importance of the role that they play in the community.”
Concerns were raised earlier this year about the condition of police emergency response vehicles, which were said to be on their “last legs”.
Mr Simons acknowledged then that the force faced some challenges with the ageing fleet.
He said last week: “We just got three new motorcycles and we should be getting some cars before the end of the year … three at least, they’re ordered, it’s just a question of manufacturing and stuff like that.”
The commissioner added: “The ideal number of marked patrol vehicles that we should have is 45 and we have about 32 that are fit and serviceable.”
He acknowledged: “It’s a challenge.”
Mr Simons said: “Every year we ask for a budget and this year will be no different, we want to get that fleet back up.”
He added: “This year the Government did give us $300,000 towards the purchase of the vehicles and that’s the funding that has brought in the most recent vehicles.”
Budget books showed that in 2020-21, 2019-20 and 2018-19 the actual spends in policing were $63.7 million, $64.2 million and $66.4 million, respectively.