BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Wednesday January 24, 2018 – Police in Barbados are set to get expanded powers that will include implementing two-day curfews or a so-called “special investigation period” in response to serious violence.
The additional powers are proposed under the Police (Amendment) Bill, 2017, which was debated in the House of Assembly yesterday.
The Bill seeks to increase the statutory powers granted to the Commissioner of Police and the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) “to protect life and property of citizens, to ensure peace and public order under the Act with the use of cordons and curfews, and to provide for related matters”.
Among other things it will give police the power to stop and search an individual or their property during a curfew or in a cordoned off area, upon “reasonable suspicion that the person has committed an arrestable offence”.
It also gives the RBPF power to search a property in the area of a curfew between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. without a warrant once there is “reasonable suspicion that an offence has been committed, is being committed or is about to be committed on the premises”.
However, Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite maintained that crime in the country had not reached the stage where residents needed to panic.
The number of murders committed last year was 30 – up from the 24 recorded in 2016.
“2016-2017 creates a bit of a concern to us because, based on the information that I have received, it seems as if many individuals are no longer cooperating. They’re willing to take the law into their own hands, so that’s why we’re seeing the level of drive-by shootings; those are all retaliatory,” he said.
While stop and search operations have been taking place, Brathwaite said the police needed the requisite legislative power proposed under the Police (Amendment) Bill to continue using “this meaningful and effective tool”.
He also explained the rationale for expanding the cordon powers, saying: “We want the police, once they have reasonable information, to be able to go in and cordon off an area and to carry out a search as required, because we have to move with the times. In other words, from the intelligence that we have gathered, individuals are not storing their illegal firearms or their illegal drugs in the back pockets or on their properties but usually within arm’s length, within walking distance.”
Stiff penalties would apply to those who refuse to comply with the directions of the police.
Those found guilty at the magistrate’s court level of assaulting, obstructing or using abusive language against lawmen in the execution of their duties or aid in inciting such behaviour could be fined BDS$5 000 (US$2,500), be imprisoned for two years, or both.
The maximum fine doubles if a conviction is secured at the High Court, and the prison term increases to three years. (Adapted from Nation Newspaper and Barbados Today)