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Election 2020: OBA on attack over uniformed services

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Up to 75 uniformed services jobs are under threat from cutbacks, the One Bermuda Alliance claimed yesterday.

Ben Smith, the shadow national security minister in the last government, said personnel in the police, prison and fire services had predicted potential large-scale layoffs.

Mr Smith, joined by OBA election candidates Jarion Richardson and Robin Tucker, said: “I am told that up 40 police jobs are at risk. Twenty prison officers' jobs and 15 fire service jobs are also under threat.”

Mr Smith said the jobs were on the line over a range of cuts that had been agreed with public-sector unions, but not the associations that represented the three emergency services.

He added: “The Burt Administration has publicly threatened layoffs.”

Mr Smith said David Burt, the Premier, had tried to “bully” the uniformed services and also accused the Government of a failure to kit out essential workers with proper personal protective equipment early in the Covid-19 crisis.

Last night, a Progressive Labour Party spokeswoman rebuffed the claim, saying it was “telling” that the OBA under its leader, Craig Cannonier, wanted “more government spending in this one area, and yet, the OBA in government cut funding to public education”.

The spokeswoman added: “We strongly support the regiment and the men and women of the Bermuda Police Service.

“They did an incredible job during shelter-in-place and during the hurricanes.

“Now is not the time to politicise them but, instead, to put politics aside and figure out how we can work together to develop budgets that allow them to do their jobs while also taking into account the necessary belt tightening that must happen to see us through the economic recovery.”

Mr Smith pledged that an OBA government would equip the island's uniformed services with up-to-date technology, including body cameras for police officers, updated fire equipment and emergency ambulances and tackle “serious facilities deficiencies” in the prisons.

Mr Smith also vowed the OBA would boost staff numbers so that “services are provided with reduced reliance on overtime pay and the promotion of wellbeing for those who give service to our island”.

Jarion Richardson, the OBA hopeful for Paget West, said the party would create a Department of Restorative Justice if it won the October 1 election.

Mr Richardson said it would offer conflict resolution for offenders after violent incidents, support to victims of crime and offer family conferencing.

He added the OBA would drop “certain offences” from the records of young offenders who completed community service orders. Mr Richardson said Magistrates' Court would deliver “guided community orders for certain non-violent offences”, monitored by revamped parish councils with social worker assistance.

He added the OBA would boost the longstanding Alternatives to Incarceration programme, designed to deal with crimes that involved mental health problems and addiction.

Robin Tucker, the OBA candidate in Hamilton South, said the stressful conditions endured by the uniformed services took a toll on mental health.

She added: “We will provide on-call mental health social workers to support uniformed services personnel in responding to non-criminal calls when there is a need for de-escalation or crisis assistance.”

Ms Tucker said the OBA would also deliver better mental health support for prison inmates and ensure more access to the mental health court.

She added: “Currently, only someone pre-diagnosed with a mental health problem has immediate access to that court,” she said. “We would review this process.”

She said an OBA government would introduce an annual “summit for the community” including uniformed services, teachers, social workers, parish councillors, clergy and community leaders to discuss “the strengthening of community policing and relations”.

To read the OBA statements in full, click on the PDFs below “Related Media”.

One Bermuda Alliance candidates Robin Tucker, left, with Ben Smith and Jarion Richardson (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

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Published September 24, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated September 24, 2020 at 2:01 pm)

Election 2020: OBA on attack over uniformed services

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