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Police need anti-violence Tsar HMIC report

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Police should appoint one senior officer to manage violent crime on a daily basis. File picture.

Younger, more volatile gang members are among the new concerns behind an independent report commissioned for the Bermuda Police Service.Released yesterday, the report’s suggestions include a three-year mission strategy, a senior officer to oversee gang violence reduction, and a new regime of “covert and overt tactical options” to tackle gang-related violence.A total of seven key points emerged from the review, conducted by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).Undertaken in November, 2010 at the request of Governor Sir Richard Gozney, inspections over the subsequent year included a visit by HM Inspector of Constabulary Vic Towell.“Bermuda is essentially a safe place to live, work and visit, with overall crime levels both relatively low and declining,” the report states.“However, increases in serious violence and in the use of firearms by gang members since 2009 are significant concerns, and therefore provide the focus of this inspection.”Sir Richard said it had been requested by police authorities because they wanted the Inspectorate’s opinion, seven years on from the last visit to the Island.“Obviously the upsurge in violent crime in 2009 added force to their request and gave the inspection a strong focus,” he added. “The request was one which I needed to make as Governor and was readily endorsed by me.“In many areas the Inspectorate is complimentary about the Bermuda Police Service. But you don’t invite an inspection hoping to be flattered.”The HMIC report notes a need for clearer, more streamlined governance of Bermuda’s police, with greater oversight and more structured annual budgeting.It also highlights inefficiencies in police IT capabilities, including the lack of an intranet, and says BPS strategic and annual plans are “out of date”.The report commends the development of Community Action Teams, but says they lack overall coordination. It also calls for police performance targets.Just over half the recommendations made in a 2003 HMIC inspection are still valid, it says, and have been incorporated into its seven main points.The report also says additional, “more specific tactical issues” have been put before the Governor and Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva.Mr DeSilva said the report was good for the BPS overall, and showed that “the direction we’ve been heading in the last three years in tackling guns and gangs has made a difference”.He called it “a gap analysis between where we are, and where we need to be”.In calling for the appointment of a senior officer dedicated to managing gang violence, the report also observes recent successes made by the Island’s police.“Several violent and high risk offenders have been incarcerated following successful prosecutions, and the number of homicides and firearm incidents during 2011 is decreasing.“However, it would be naive to consider the problem of gang violence to be solved particularly as new concerns are surfacing suggesting more unpredictable behaviour by younger gang members.”The report is also consistent with the Joint Select Committee’s Report on Violent Crime and Gun Violence in Bermuda.HMIC is mandated to monitor and assess police forces throughout England, Wales and Northern Island. In making the inspection report, the HMIC says, “we ask the questions which informed citizens would ask”.It notes “high levels of support from the public” for the Island’s police.Officers display “high and impressive standards of personal appearance”, but the BPS should consider introducing “talent management processes for the early identification of officers and staff who show the potential for leadership positions and specialist roles”.Bermuda’s ratio of constables to senior staff is lower than in many other forces, it adds.“HMIC recognises the unique policing environment in Bermuda, including the challenges of operating in virtual isolation and without some of the specialist skills and departments expected of a UK police force. Given the resources and finances available the BPS is an effective and efficient organisation which is constantly exploring methods by which to improve. This report seeks to contribute towards that process.”Mr DeSilva said the next step would be “to digest the report in full, to determine which suggestions will yield the greatest value to the Service and the public, and then set our priorities from there”.Added Sir Richard: “The Inspectorate’s recommendations, whether on Police and Community Groups, Police Performance Management or modernising the Police Service as a workforce will, I think, be useful.“The recommendations for some changes dwell on areas on which the new Police Leadership have already been concentrating and should give extra impetus to their efforts. The Bermuda Police leadership can now see the priorities and recommendations for Bermuda of a British Police Inspectorate whose full time job is to evaluate and advise police forces in Britain, many of which are far larger than the Bermuda Police Service.”

Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva