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The Formation of the Police Force (Part 1)

On February 20, 1840, The Bahamas Assembly tabled an Act entitled "An Act for Regulating the Police of the Bahama Islands" (3 V [I 131 C. 38). Even though The Royal Bahamas Police Force commemorates its anniversary on March I, which was when the Act was officially commenced, the Act was tabled eight days prior to its commencement. Though addressing a host of issues, including the punishment of criminal offenders, the 1840 Act was the official document that formally established the first uniform system of policing in The Bahamas. As previously mentioned, there were several legislative enactments passed prior to the 1840 Act that addressed matters related to Constables and members of the Night Guard (3 Geo IV, 2 Will IV, 4 Will IV, 2Vic I C.2,ZVic I C.7 & 2Vic I C. 16).

However, none of them clearly set out a well-defined Force in organization or structure. As a result, the 1840 Act repealed all of the previous Acts relating to law enforcement officers and the organization was officially referred to as the Police of The Bahama Islands. The strength of the Force in 1840 began at seventeen, inclusive of one Inspector-General and sixteen Privates (Constables). The 1840 Act originally provided for thirty-one officers: one Inspector-General, two Sergeants, two Corporals and twenty-six Privates. The first group of volunteers, numbering sixteen, was placed under the authority of Mr. John Pinder, who was referred to as the Inspector-General of the Force. The Colonial Secretary, a position established in 1729, was directly responsible for the Force. He was to be updated by the Inspector-General on the establishment, strength and any other activities that related to the agency. The Colonial Secretary would, in turn, report to the Governor and the House of Assembly.

The newly appointed officers were headquartered in a Station House on Parliament Street in the city ofNassau. It is believed that the majority of the initial volunteers who were accepted as officers wereprobably members of the disbanded Day or Night Guards. Hence, these were men who had some degree of experience and familiarity with the fundamental duties and responsibilities of a police officer, and whowere keenly familiar with the town of Nassau during that time. The fundamentals ofThe Royal Bahamas Police Force were quite similar to those instituted by the police force in England formed just eleven years earlier. Even though the Force was paramilitary in nature, it was considered an unarmed Force as officerswere not allowed to carry firearms for regular duty. As opposed to the negative reaction of England's public (who resented the image of formal social control that the Metropolitan Police represented), the Bahamian public welcomed the officers and undoubtedly solicited many more to enlist. This can be attributed to the fear of a civil uprising that still lingered in the minds of many.

The interest in joining the Force grew and manpower nearly doubled over the next five years. By early 1845, all of the 3 1 vacancies for policemen were filled. Unfortunately, it was not long before the legislature concluded that the initial funds allocated for the organization and administration of the Force was a bit too exorbitant for the available resources of the Colony. Subsequently, in 1845 the Bahamian Assembly thought it fitting to drastically reduce the Force's manpower and the salaries of officers. In February of 1845, manpower decreased by 45% - from thirty-one to seventeen officers.
(No. 33 8 Vic Ch. 7). The fallout from this decision proved to be detrimental to not only the remaining members of the Force, but also to the local residents. Morale was low among the remaining policemen as their salaries, living conditions, accommodations and other amenities were considerably reduced. Moreover, supervision became a major concern as the subordinate ranks of Corporal and Sergeant were abolished. The Constables became more relaxed in the execution of their duties and no doubt spent much of their time consuming alcohol while on duty. Hence, the Inspector attempted to devote his already limited time to the direct day-to-day supervision of officers while virtually abandoning strategic planning and the addressing of crime issues.

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