Specialist investigators ‘overwhelmed’ say BPS as 31 murders remain unsolved
Specialist investigators will be recruited to the Bermuda Police Service from overseas after training of island officers was unable to keep up with demand for the expertise.
Commissioner of Police Darrin Simons explained that detectives were overwhelmed with almost 160 open investigations into murders or attempted murders on top of inquiries into other serious crimes.
But the Bermuda Police Association said bringing in specialists obstructed career progression for Bermudian-based officers and that it supported international recruitment only for frontline policing.
The comments came after Michael Weeks, the Minister of National Security, announced a boost of almost $2 million to swell police ranks.
A BPS spokesman said the allocation meant an increase in the funded establishment from 400 to 420 but that officer numbers stood at 375.
The shortfall was attributed to natural attrition and the inability to recruit for two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Simons said: “We are actively recruiting to fill 30 posts locally. You will be pleased to know that five of these new posts will be added to our community policing team.
“To that end there is currently a local recruiting process under way, to attract new members to the Bermuda Police Service.
“We anticipate a Recruit Foundation Course starting within the next four months.
“Training of local officers at all ranks remains ongoing.”
He added: “Since 2008, 31 unsolved murders and 127 unsolved attempted murders remain open and under investigation.
“Our specialist investigators are overwhelmed, dealing with not only these matters, but also other cases involving drugs, fraud, child sexual abuse, as well as other significant acts of criminality.
“While we have a robust programme to develop local investigators, on average, it takes more than seven years before an officer becomes occupationally and operationally competent to be tasked with complex specialist investigations.
“Demand has simply outstripped the capacity to develop local talent quickly enough.”
The spokesman said that eight experienced detectives would be recruited from the Caribbean and the UK as well as seven accredited authorised firearms officers.
He added: “An injection of experienced detectives is required to successfully investigate the number of outstanding serious cases as well as provide a better environment to grow our local talent.
“Further, the aim is to reduce significant crime by arresting and convicting those responsible for these offences and most importantly, provide the much needed closure to our families whose loved ones have fallen victim to these crimes.”
Sergeant Anton Gilbert, chairman of the Bermuda Police Association, said: “At this time the BPA only supports the overseas recruiting for frontline policing.
“Persons recruited should be for basic training as uniform police officers. These officers can then compete for specialist opportunities within the BPS.
“Hiring specialists as direct entries will block current locally employed officers from progressing in their careers.”
He added: “The BPS needs to invest in the future of currently serving officers and this can only be done if recruiting is done to backfill the frontline policing posts.
“We understand that the demand exceeds supply locally for policing as a career but that does not mean bring in specialists.
“The hiring of basic frontline police officers is a model that has worked in the past and has allowed for a positively competitive work environment.
“We hope to see robust training and succession planning within the BPS because hiring direct-entry specialists is not an effective long-term solution to our current shortages.”
Police commissioner Mr Simons said there were not enough authorised firearms officers.
He explained: “At the current staffing, there are notable operational and logistical challenges that daily need to be overcome to ensure the continuity of service.
“Sixty AFOs are required to effectively conduct operations and manage the rigorous training required to effectively deliver on one of the most dangerous areas of our service.
“While we continue to attract and train firearms officers locally, the reality is that there are not enough local officers applying and passing the course to meet our needs.
“An increase of seven trained firearms officers will alleviate the most critical shortages while we progress local enrolment.”
Adverts for the eight investigators will run in the UK and Caribbean countries.
Recruitment for AFOs will be limited to the UK, where Bermuda’s firearms training and accreditation is mirrored.
Mr Simons said: “The 15 overseas officers, will help the BPS address shortages while we focus on enrolling local recruits.
“I recognise there may be many different perspectives on this news and I hope the information shared provides context for the decision to hire overseas officers.”
He invited public comment on the plans and can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mr Simons highlighted training that took place already this year, including a basic investigators course last month.
The police service thanked the Bermuda Government for providing the additional funding.