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Police running out of money four months after budget slashed

The police are understood to be running out of money just four months after Government slashed its budget by 11 percent.

The Bermuda Police Service is finding it difficult to make ends meet as police chiefs struggle to stretch its $58 million 2011-12 budget. The $7.5 million budget cut means the police look likely to run out of money before the end of the financial year.

Government will have little choice but to hand over further funding if they want to save police officer jobs and critical crime-fighting tactics.

The Royal Gazette understands from several sources that further Government handouts will be needed within the next few months. It is said that police funds are “running extremely low”. Shadow National Security Minister Michael Dunkley has today branded the police budget allocation as “wishful thinking” saying Government should have been throwing money at the escalating crime problem.

One of the police's biggest expenses has been the cost of lengthy gun crime investigations, which include paying for forensic evidence and overseas experts. Another new cost hitting the service hard is the $220,000 being spent on housing the senior command team at the privately-owned Veritas Place on Court Street, Hamilton, opposite the newly-built police and court building.

A total of $3 million has also had to be allocated for completing the new X-ray scanner at the container port in Hamilton, which is designed to combat guns and drugs getting into Bermuda.

Senator Dunkley said: “This is a very unfortunate situation. You cannot make that much of a cut when we are trying to fight gang and gun violence.

“For Government to come up with this budget was just wishful thinking that it was actually going to work.

“I wouldn't be at all surprised if more funds need to be given before the end of the financial year to allow the police to continue with the same level of service.

“In my opinion, it's been somewhat of an illusion, Government just wanted to be seen to make cutbacks, just seen to be doing something.

“The Premier and Finance Minister has a well proven record of dipping back into the well and spending more money.

“I'm really disappointed, this makes a mockery of the process”.

The BPS is continuing to try to save the dollars by enforcing a partial overtime ban and cancelling many overseas trips and training courses. Limited funds are also available for vehicle repairs and new uniforms.

Officers have even been reminded to reuse paper and turn off lights at the end of the day in a bid to save money.

However police bosses are still thought to be unable to meet Government's target figure and they are said to be unclear on how they are supposed to make the additional cutbacks.

More than 75 percent of the budget allocation is understood to go on salaries of the 460 full-time officers with staffing levels being increased to maximum levels in a bid to try to restore peace in our communities. There have been 16 gun murders in Bermuda since May, 2009.

At the time of the budget cuts, the then Minister of National Security David Burch said BPS had “always overspent” saying: “The theme of doing more with less, or even the same with less, rings as true with the Ministry of National Security as it does in other areas of Government.”

But Sen Dunkley fears public safety could be put on the line if Government continues to tighten the purse strings.

He said: “I had concerns at the very beginning and I still have those same concerns about the budget cut.

“The best way to tackle the increase in gang and gun crime across Bermuda is having police officers out in the community.

“To police the island properly, money has to be spent. They need resources and spending to get the job done.”

Sen Dunkley praised the police for doing “a very effective job” over the holiday weekend; with a high presence at events such as Cup Match, Non-Mariner's and Beachfest.

However, he said high visibility “comes at a cost” especially over holiday weekends when many officers are paid double or even triple time.

Sen Dunkley would now like to see a review of the Police Service to see how it can be made more efficient.

This year Government also slashed the Fire Service and Defence Department budget by 17 percent and the Department of Corrections saw its funding reduced by nine percent.

Police Commissioner Micheal DeSilva was yesterday sent a series of questions. In response, he would only say: “The police budget is a matter for the Minister.”

National Security Minister Wayne Perinchief did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

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Published August 03, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 03, 2011 at 9:04 am)

Police running out of money four months after budget slashed

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