What the Retirement of Police Commissioner Means for the Bahamas
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It was a surprising and spontaneous announcement.
Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle will retire from the police force this year after nearly 40 years of service.
His exit comes after nearly two years as the police chief.
The news has stirred speculation that Deputy Commissioner Clayton Fernander will succeed him at the end of his term. Though few expected his tenure to expire so soon after reassuring the public of an extended stay on the force, many anticipated his end was sooner since a new government was elected.
Here’s what you need to know:
Why is he retiring now?
Paul Rolle has been the Commissioner since 2020. He took on the role at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to navigate the pandemic and enforce the country’s COVID-19 measures.
While addressing reporters outside of a charitable event hosted by the RBPF, Rolle was asked about his tenure and unable to navigate the conversation, he blurted, “I met with the team this morning and I could say to you that I do intend to make my exit from the police force at some point. I will have 40 years and so I’m looking down the 40-year mark and I’ll make a decision on that in due course.”
He is four years away from retirement age but has already spent 40 years on the police force. An extension can be granted if the new government, the Progressive Liberal Party, really wants to.
Though governments dismiss that the appointment of commissioners is non-political, Bahamian history has shown that each elected government appoints police chiefs who align with their party’s philosophy and hasten the removal of those who do not.
In December, three months after the new government was elected, Rolle backed by Prime Minister Philip Davis sought to dismiss claims he would be replaced and said he had no plans to leave the Force. “I’m 56 and the Police Act says you could work until you’re 60, and the Pension Act says 65.”
What is Paul Rolle’s relationship with the present government?
Rolle was appointed Commissioner by the Free National Movement after the retirement of Anthony Ferguson.
During his tenure, he has faced public criticism for his management of the COVID19 rules which many deemed restrictive and unfair. Some street vendors like the Coconut boys were hauled before the courts for violating COVID-19 measures. It cast a negative light on the force at a time when many Bahamians were struggling to cope financially.
In addition, the killing of 6 men at once after their release from police custody and he labelling them as idiots, has caused mounting criticism.
When a new government was elected in September, the Progressive Liberal Party brought back senior officers sent on early retirement by the FNM, one being Fernander who the PLP later appointed deputy to Rolle.
What does his retirement mean for crime?
Rolle’s announcement comes at a sensitive time for the Bahamas when crime is surging as the country reopens its economy. Multiple murders a day and brazen shootings are on the rise and calls for a new approach to policing are becoming louder.
Rolle came up through the ranks of the police force with little street experience and more administrative experience. The opposite is true for Fernander who once a victim of crime when he escaped a near death experience during a robbery. He has risen within the ranks with the knowledge and experience necessary to deal with gangs and violent crimes.
Photo credit: Eye Witness News