Wednesday, December 9, 2009

And Two Steps Back Step Back

Yesterday I attempted to take a joint statement of Government and Government House in good faith. I took it as an important step forward towards cooperation between our elected politicians and our impartial governor on a topic that effects us all. It seemed as though the rhetoric was going to at least be put on the back burner for the challenging weeks ahead as Bermuda recovers from another tragic loss of life due to gang related gun crime.

It would seem I've had a fool made of me and the reasons for this blog's name has become apparent yet again.

Just when I was allowing myself to be positive about a Government that, on the whole, I am generally critical of it turns out that my Wishful Thinking was misplaced. Curtesy of today's Royal Gazette:-

Premier repeats demand for control of Police

As one might imagine head-desk action followed a quick skim of the article this morning with sighs of disbelief to follow. Not only was I dismayed that the whole situation was turning into another political excuse to attack "our colonial masters" but, I was shocked that our Premier would have the gall to turn around an hour after a joint statement with the governor and go off, guns blazing, in an oh so characteristic anti-colonial statement that comes across as nothing more than an attempt to pander to the PLP party faithful.

The first statement contained some very promising language including:

"We are both anxious to do all that we can to help and to encourage the Bermuda Police Service to combat the shocking rise in gun crime. In fact, we discuss policing in Bermuda together, frequently and intensively."

And even a bit of Government back-patting where our Government was praised for its amendments to
Police and Criminal Evidence Act and its strong budgetary support for the Police.

The second on the other hand was a whole other story. It contained some absolutely delightful comments, my favourite being:

"Unfortunately, despite being in Government we are hamstrung in our abilities to act. In spite of the fact that the Bermudian taxpayer pays for our Police service, an unelected Governor has full control over operational policing."

So lets break that down just a bit. We, the tax payer, pay taxes to the Government, distributes a portion of those taxes to the Police Service, which uses those funds to investigate crime on the streets, in the office and up on the hill. We depend on this Police Force to remain impartial and fair in its investigations, we depend on it to investigate any crime regardless of the position held by the suspect and we depend on it to let us to sleep safe at night. Call my a cynic but, I wouldn't trust a politician (regardless of political party or ideology) with those jobs and why? Because lives depends on it being done well.

Division of labour makes efficient work and division of powers makes for accountable government. Who watches the government if the watchers are run by those who are committing the (hypothetical) crimes?

Call me colonial but, there is a measure of trust that comes with the position of Governor of Bermuda. Gone are the days where Governor was synonymous with white oligarchy (as much as some would like to suggest it still is). The Governor has little power these days and even operational control of the Police is delegated down the line to the Police Commissioner. The office of Governor is the best place for power over the Police to lie just because it's not democratic! I don't want policing to be decided by votes and political bickering. I want responsibility for policing to exist on a plane above petty political squabbles. It's pure Wishful Thinking to expect such a thing from a politicized police service and while democratic principles may seem so at odds with the current system we cannot afford to allow ourselves the luxury of idealism especially with crime in Bermuda going the way it's going. There are certain things where we must go with what works best and putting the Police Force in the Government's hands is not the best.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Politicizing the police force is one ambitious politician away from a Banana republic. Hyperbole? Perhaps. But, I'd rather not take chances with something so important. It's one situation where we can't afford to blindly move forward with nothing more to hold onto than some airy fairy,

Wishful Thinking

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