NASSAU, Bahamas — Moving debate on the Government’s Police Force Bill 2009 Wednesday, Minister of National Security the Hon. Tommy Turnquest said a “critical concept” of the proposed legislation is the provision for Term Limits for Commissioners of Police and Deputy Commissioners of Police.
The proposed contractual term can be upwards of five years and is renewable for a period not exceeding 10 years.
Mr. Turnquest said the Government of The Bahamas is of the opinion that critical leadership positions such as Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner should change periodically to ensure that new vision, ideas and innovation are introduced into the Force at the highest level, and on a continuous basis.
He indicated that the provision is not incompatible with the Constitution of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and has precedence in other Commonwealth countries such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Jamaica where fixed contractual terms govern the tenure of Commissioners of Police.
The same can be said of the London Metropolitan Police and New Scotland yard in the United Kingdom, Mr. Turnquest noted.
The National Security Minister also pointed out that a review of the history of the Royal Bahamas Police Force over the past 40 years indicates that fixed terms have previously been in place.
“Commissioner Highmarsh was on contract and replaced by Salathiel Thompson in January, 1978, who was appointed on a one-year contract and renewed annually until Mr. Gerald Bartlett was appointed in 1981,” Mr. Turnquest said.
“Commissioner Bartlett turned 60 years of age in that same year and served for five years on annual contracts until Mr. B.K. Bonamy became Commissioner in 1987. Mr. Bonamy is still younger than the retirement age and could still be Commissioner today, 21 years later, if he had remained on the Force.
“There is sound reasoning for this progressive provision,” Mr. Turnquest said. “If the succession by promotion rule is followed and if permitted to serve until age 65 years, it is quite possible that a Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner of Police could serve 15-20 years. It is our firm position that these two important offices should not be so open-ended.
“With fixed terms for the offices of Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner, young Police Officers may realistically aspire to filling one of these top two spots as longevity in office is no longer a condition of service. No doubt this will provide powerful incentive for all Police Officers as they progress through the ranks,” Mr. Turnquest added.
Future Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners of Police of the Royal Bahamas Police Force will be called upon to more than “identify themselves” by the office that they hold, but rather identify themselves and their legacy on the Force, by the progressive agendas they set, Minister Turnquest addded.
“Leadership is not a position, it is action,” Mr. Turnquest said. “In this instance, it will be action with a timeline (as) Commissioners of Police and Deputy Commissioners of Police will have to identify themselves and their legacy on the Force by the progressive agenda they set, their capacity to provide the quality of leadership that will motivate the men and women of the Force to accomplish priority goals and objectives, and the overall contribution they make to the growth and development of the Force in the interest of ensuring safety and security of Bahamians.”