By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
AFTER a near three-year absence of inquiries into police-involved shootings, Commissioner Clayton Fernander said he’s been advised that Coroner’s Courts inquests into these matters will soon resume.
He suggested that it could be as early as next month.
The police chief gave the update during a press briefing at the Royal Bahamas Police Force’s headquarters Friday.
“I’m happy to say that this time that I have communicated with the coroner and she said that as early as next month, you would see some movement in the Coroner’s Court with respect to a number of these police-involved shootings,” Commissioner Fernander said.
Lawyers and family members of victims have long complained about the Coroner’s Court and how long it takes before inquests are held.
Although the pace significantly improved during the Minnis administration, it came to a halt during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Later, former Coroner Jeanine Weech-Gomez was sworn in as a Supreme Court justice, causing further delays as officials waited to replace her.
Magistrate Kara Turnquest-Deveaux was named acting coroner in September 2021.
While inquests into other deaths have since resumed, inquests into police-involved killings have not as the director of public prosecutions has yet to appoint a lawyer to marshal the cases.
Earlier this month, The Tribune spoke to a few relatives and friends of victims who say they are still waiting for answers on their loved ones’ killing.
Last year, there were 16 police-involved shootings recorded, 10 of which were fatal.
In 2021, 21 police-involved killings were reported.
So far, the country has already recorded two police-involved shootings for the year. One of them was fatal.
The incident happened on January 21 when officers were on routine patrol in the area of Kemp Road and Edwards Avenue.
Police said officers saw a man with a gun and pursued him onto Hillbrook Close, where he allegedly engaged the police and was fatally wounded.
The family of the 18-year-old has disputed the police’s version of events and have also asked to see CCTV footage from the area.
However, Commissioner Fernander told reporters Friday that police could not release the footage as it must be handed over to the coroner for the investigation.
“There was a lot of talks out there with respect to the police-involved shooting, the latest one and there was some questions put out there for the police,” he said.
“I can’t speak directly to it because the matter is presently before the Coroner’s Court.
“There was (a) question about footage. There was also (a) question about body worn cams at the time. We have footage. I cannot release it. It will be handed over to the coroner to assist with the investigation, but I can say that the police, we are trained to eliminate any kind of threats or threat level either to you, to me directly, to my colleagues or citizens.
“And that officer is trained to do just that - to eliminate the threat if his life or his partner or some civilian’s life is in danger. We are not trained to fire no warning shots. That’s not the position.
“A fellow shooting at you and you fire shots in the air to tell him to stop? We have to be real with this and that’s why we continue to investigate properly - to ensure that justice is served across the board,” he also said.
The commissioner also insisted that no form of police brutality will be condoned under his leadership or this Davis-led administration.
“If you’re wrong, then you’ll face the music if you’re not justified in that. You’ll face the music like anyone else. You have to account for your actions,” he added.
“Everyone has to account for their actions and we continue to do just that – to train our officers to ensure that what they do and how they execute their duties, that they are fair and upright.”
There were 170 complaints made against police last year, according to data released by RBPF.
This was a 27 percent decrease from 2021, which saw 234 reports filed.
Meanwhile 106 cases remain under investigation, while 21 were withdrawn and 28 were said to be unfounded.
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