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BERMUDA-Governor orders independent review of pepper-spraying incident

Governor John Rankin has ordered an independent review of the use of pepper spray by the police. Governor John Rankin has ordered an independent review of the use of pepper spray by the police.
HAMILTON, Bermuda, Jan 12, CMC  – Governor John Rankin has ordered an independent review of the use of pepper spray by the police in response to a demonstration early last month that blocked parliamentarians from entering the House of Assembly.

Late Wednesday, Rankin announced that he will arrange for a senior British officer to conduct the review.

Rankin, who has been in the post for only a month, said UK police officer would also make recommendations wherever improvements could be made, including any future resource or training needs.

“I have agreed with the Commissioner of Police and following consultation with the Premier that, in line with best practice, the police response to the protests should be independently reviewed by a peer organisation,” Rankin said.

“I am making arrangements to have a senior UK police officer conduct such a review and make recommendations wherever improvements could be made, including as appropriate on any future resource or training needs.”

Rankin’s intervention came after Shadow Attorney-General Michael Scott earlier demanded a judicial public inquiry into the December 2 protest, accusing Premier Michael Dunkley of failing to set any “parameters” when he requested an investigation into what happened that day.

“The events of December 2, 2016 tore at Bermuda’s national fabric and left all right-thinking people alarmed and outraged.

“Whilst Premier Michael Dunkley has requested an investigation, he has not indicated any parameters for such. With harm caused to otherwise innocent peaceful citizens exercising their constitutional right of protest, and the decision makers most closely connected with the events being at the very top of government, the importance of a judicial public inquiry is highlighted. “It is only the judicial branch (of government) that is free of conflict to appropriately examine the incident, “ said Scott at a press conference.

Shadow National Security Minister Walter Roban added it was “imperative that a thorough and transparent examination take place to restore vital confidence in the government and the police”. He told the news conference Dunkley had failed to commit to an independent inquiry.

Police were criticised after officers wearing riot helmets used pepper spray on a crowd of protesters blocking legislators from entering the House. The demonstrators’ aim was to prevent debate of legislation concerning a US$250 million redevelopment of the airport in a public-private partnership between government and a Canadian company.

Dunkley said on December 4  he had asked the Governor and the Bermuda Police Service (BPS) for an investigation into the events to be conducted and a report prepared for the government on “what happened and why”.

On December 7, Rankin said the Commissioner and Acting Commissioner of Police had assured him they were “conducting investigations” into what took place.

“There is an investigation under way into assaults on police officers where files are being prepared for charges to be brought. At the same time, there is an investigation under way into complaints brought against police officers and these will be referred to the Police Complaints Authority (PCA),” he then said.

The independent PCA has so far been forwarded 26 complaints in connection with the protest.

Fourteen police officers were allegedly assaulted during the protest, according to the BPS.

Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva said in the aftermath of the protest, some officers used incapacitant spray in a “proportionate response to disperse the crowd”.

After demonstrators blocked legislators from entering the House the Speaker, Randy Horton, adjourned proceedings until early next month when the government plans to forge ahead with debate on the airport legislation.

Last modified onThursday, 12 January 2017 09:02
  • Countries: Bermuda

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