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Public have a key role to play in fighting crime

Working together: a call from a member of the public to the Linden police station in New Jersey, checking on a man who looked suspicious in a doorway led to the capture of Ahmad Khan Raham. This kind of co-operation between police and public is vital in upholding the law

Whenever a serious crime is committed anywhere in the world, police often without hesitation are the ones first on the scene, which is what most people expect, since their mandate is to serve and protect.

However, it is not unusual for potential witnesses to look the other way, with that “none of my business” posture.

It is a different story when the shoe is on the other foot — when that person is a victim.

It is good to know that in every society, despite risk of becoming involved, people are willing to assist police if possible, when in a position to do so. This becomes a complex issue when some rogue officers act outside of professional standards, creating a negative image for the many good officers who do outstanding work under difficult conditions.

It is unfortunate because for some people, after an unpleasant encounter with police, they tend to paint all officers with a single brush. Police around the world are familiar with that problem and are constantly striving to deal with officers who stray from codes of proper conduct while serving the public. Despite that challenge, which is continuing, it is fitting to salute those many brave officers who unselfishly put their lives on the line without question.

When a 911 call is made, few would want to respond owing to the unknown danger that can exist when criminals become desperate. Yet, the police rush into situations with the objective of stopping a crime or saving a life. Many times their heroics are considered just a part of the job.

In America, the police have had a tremendous task winning public confidence in the wake of a number of fatal shootings by officers, with several sent to prison for abusing their authority.

Although all has not been well in recent months with relations between police and the public in that country, nevertheless, police chiefs have insisted that better public co-operation is the key in helping to create an appreciation for what officers face under conditions, where they have only seconds to make a decision.

When the call came a few days ago to the Linden police station in New Jersey to check a man who looked suspicious in a doorway, the officers responding had no idea that the man they were about to encounter was a suspect in planting bombs in New Jersey and New York, with one bomb causing a number of people to be injured, although none fatally.

The significant factor here is that a member of the public decided to do something about a situation he was uncomfortable about. It was that action that led to the capture of a man intent on hurting or killing people.

Two officers on approaching the man who appeared to be sleeping were not expecting to be fired on after an exchange of words. Both were injured before other officers were able to disable the suspect.

It was only afterwards that the citizen who made the call realised that a manhunt had ended as a result through that call.

He refused to be labelled a hero, and said what he did was what all citizens should do when they notice something suspicious. That, perhaps, is essential in helping to combat crime anywhere.

Police here in Bermuda are constantly urging the public to assist them in helping to solve crimes, especially when violence is involved and occasionally with loss of life. In a tightly knit community, that is always a challenge.

It is encouraging to note that police have also had high praise for members of the public, who have stepped forward with information that has helped in resolving some cases. Compared with other countries, Bermuda should be proud of what appears to be a growing relationship between the public and the police. That progress must continue because the overall safety throughout our communities will depend on how well all Bermudians pull together to stamp out violent crimes.

Nothing will ever be perfect, but things can be much better. Our children should be taught very early that good citizens always respect laws that protect. They should do this in the interest of building a Bermuda that will be safe for all.