There is a brewing situation between the Bermuda Police Association (BPA) and Government, with potential for labour discord, after Minister of National Security Michael Weeks revealed that his ministry is actively recruiting specialist officers overseas.
Minister Weeks told of efforts to bring in experienced personnel to aid in the resolution of several outstanding murders and attempted murders, as well as importing specialist firearms officers.
However, such actions have not gone over well with the police union, which claimed the move to go beyond agreed recruitment boundaries.
“We are in the process of doing a recruitment drive now, as we speak,” the Minister told TNN. “What, in particular, I spoke of was, for a part-time basis, bringing in some officers, some experienced firearms officers and some experienced detectives, because that’s needed right now.
“There are currently 31 cold murder cases and 171 attempted murder cases that are yet to be solved, so we have decided to bring in some experience to help address that and make the community feel more secure.”
Mr Weeks added that his ministry had cast a wide net relative to where they sought to procure officers for the highlighted roles, with both the Britain and the Caribbean likely points of reference.
“It’s going to be a wide net, including the UK and the Caribbean and we will see what the net brings,” he said.
Unimpressed by such reasoning, the Bermuda Police Assocation (BPA) Chairman Anton Gilbert released a statement noting how recruitment was supposed to be limited to the hire of basic front-line officers uniform officers that can then work their way up the ladder, rather than employing established officers which limited growth potential.
“At this time the BPA only supports the overseas recruiting for front-line policing. Persons recruited should be for basic training as uniform police officers,” read a statement from the BPA. “These officers can then compete for specialists opportunities within the BPS. Hiring specialists as direct entries will block current locally employed officers from progressing in their careers.
The BPS needs to invest in the future of currently serving officers and this can only be done if recruiting is done to backfill the front line policing posts.
“We understand that the demand exceeds supply locally for policing as a career but that does not mean bring in specialist. The hiring of a basic front-line Police Officers is a model that has worked in the past and has allowed for a positively competitive work environment.
“We hope to see robust training and succession planning within the BPS because hiring direct entry specialist is not an effective long term solution to our current shortages.”
Weeks noted his intention of meeting with all of the unions which come under his office’s purview, many of which are suffering from staff shortages in specialist areas, including BPS, Bermuda Fire Service and Customs.
Said Weeks: “What I intend to do very soon is bring the unions together to discuss: ‘A’ the testing requirements and; ‘B’ the recruitment requirements for getting suitable people for the posts of fire, police, customs and the like.
“So, once those talks are held we will go from there.”
With gun murders and firearms incidents appearing increasingly prevalent, the Minister was asked what need to happen in order to bring a measure of closure to what seems ‘open season’ for local gunmen.
Mr Weeks repeated what he has iterated on several occasions since taking over the national security leadership, in that the community must assist with providing information on suspected situations they may observe, as well as incidents that occur.
“It has to be a community effort. It’s the age old saying, ‘If you see something, say something’,” he said. “If you don’t want to talk to the police or someone else you know, please use the confidential Crimestoppers helpline.
“We all have to attack this thing together.”
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