Police Service technology shortcomings will be addressed in 2012 Jonathan Smith
Shortfalls in police technology, some of which came up a recent evaluation by UK inspectors, are being tackled in this year’s Budget, the Senate heard.
And the Opposition suggested police publish lists of outstanding warrants, to cut down on a backlog of outstanding warrants.
Junior National Security Minister Jonathan Smith reported on the year ahead for the Ministry, with a heavy focus on the police service, plus efforts to rein in gang violence.
Senator Smith also clashed with Shadow Minister Michael Dunkley, who accused Government of cutting back the police budget repeatedly.
Reviewing five years of Budget figures, Sen Dunkley charged that Government “has a problem in the allocation of the budget to the Police, in spite of the challenge faced to this Island in the area of public safety”.
“It is a history that makes no sense to us, of cutting back Police budgets when the Police and the rest of Bermuda were facing the biggest-ever crisis in crime,” he said.
But Sen Smith hit back that budgeting for police is unpredictable, and has been topped up by supplementary budgets each year. “The money that the police have needed, the Government has provided,” he said.
In examining technological upgrades, Sen Smith said the Police Complaints Authority is to have a website up and running by this summer.
Half a million has been allocated for Island-wide CCTV, he added. Police are also computerising their records, and acquiring new software to manage their computer systems.
Not all Senate questions were answered by the Government Senator: One Bermuda Alliance Senator Michael Fahy queried the extent of the police CCTV expansion. “Does Island-wide mean Island-wide, or is it in those areas we identify as crime hot spots?” Sen Fahy asked.
With just a half-hour to answer Opposition questions, Sen Smith did not address CCTV, and refused to give details to Sen Dunkley’s question on the number of illegal firearms presumed to be on the Island, calling it “high security information” with no place in a Budget debate.
“Suffice it to say that firearms intelligence is the most high level intelligence that police are working on,” he said, offering a similar response to Opposition questions on the number of unsolved serious crimes.
In answer to Sen Dunkley’s charge that the Police Complaints Authority had a “ten-year backlog” to resolve, Sen Smith said just a small number of complaints had been delayed. “Clearly, that’s not acceptable,” he told the Senate. “But there’s a whole variety of reasons why certain complaints can become delayed, such as human rights issues.”
Currently there are 434 officers on the police payroll right now, with recruitment expected to boost that to 450 in May.
In his reply to the Budget brief, Sen Dunkley noted recent examples of gun violence, such as Friday night’s gunshots on the Reid Street extension that shattered windows at the Seon Place office block.
Reiterating the OBA’s support for Operation Cease Fire, Sen Dunkley moved on: “The Joint Select Committee shed light on the fact that the system is not working. Not at the school level, not at the family level, not at the community level, not at the judicial level, not at the law enforcement level.
“That may seem a harsh judgment because there are many exceptions, many areas in which good people are making a difference, but in the main, the report painted a picture of a society breaking down.”
Sen Dunkley noted recent positive figures released by police which indicate a decline in many categories of crime. He said: “Crime is more than a set of statistics. The issue is really about quality of life. It’s about how safe we feel.”
In his own responses, Sen Smith said: “I heard the position put forward that you can’t just look at statistics, you have to look at how people feel. It’s a bona fide question. I don’t think it’s any secret that residents today feel different.
“But let’s be clear. The reason we’re feeling different about our neighbourhoods now is because of a considerable amount of neglect to certain neighbourhoods for decades.”
The morning session closed with budgets approved for the coming fiscal year, for National Security headquarters, police and border control.
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