Members of the Bermuda Police Association(BPA) emerged from an Emergency General Meeting “very concerned” about the way Government is dealing with the outstanding issues at the centre of the “impasse” in wage negotiations.
BPA Chairman, Sergeant Andrew Harewood stated: “The fact that their actions have the potential of causing a dissatisfied Police Service, creating severe issues for national security. We urge the Government of Bermuda to stop taking the members of the BPA for granted.
The meeting, was held at the Police Recreation Club on Thursday (August 22) to discuss the current status of negotiations, after the BPA received “correspondence from Government stating that they intend to refer the outstanding matters to Conciliation”.
“We have asked for clarity concerning these matters and to date have not received a response,” said Sgt Harewood.
The two of the matters mentioned were:
• Legal coverage for police officers who become the subject of an investigation arising out of the execution of their duties
• Healthcare coverage for police officers
“These two issues are fundamental components needed in order for us to perform the role that we are sworn to do,” he said.
“Policing is a very high-risk profession resulting in physical injuries, mental and medical issues which are part and parcel of this job. We have the daunting responsibly of having to use force against suspects to protect the public.
“This in itself, comes with its legal challenges, which leads to police officers requiring legal representation. It is worth noting that police officers who are not members of the BPA (Superintendant and above) have legal coverage if they become the subject of an investigation arising out of the execution of their duties,” he added.
“The resounding question posed at the meeting was, ‘Given the government’s position that they are unwilling to cover legal expenses that arise out of the officers’ execution of their duty, knowing that the BPA may not be able to continue to do so and that the government are seeking to erode their medical benefits’; will this have an impact on their critical decision-making ability especially in a time-critical situation?
“If the answer to this question is yes, then our members will have no choice but to reduce the risk to themselves. Due to this, our members have stated they are now considering whether undertaking additional voluntary roles which increase their personal liability is feasible.”
Examples listed include:
• Carrying a police firearm
• Responding to incidents utilizing blue lights and high speeds
• Pursuing vehicles
• Handling a Police K9
• Being a member of the Underwater Search and Recovery Team (Police Diver)
• Being a member of the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Team (Bomb squad)
• Other similar roles
The BPA also took issue with comments made by Wayne Furbert, the Minister for the Cabinet Office.
Mr Furbert stated: “While the Public Sector Negotiating Team is essentially responsible for leading our union negotiations, the Government is keen to conclude the Bermuda Police Association’s discussions for a new collective bargaining agreement in a timely fashion.”
He further stated: “For our part, this Government will continue to work in good faith with the BPA to settle outstanding issues related to the terms and conditions of service,” said Sgt Harewood.
“These two statements by the Minister are totally misleading. We call on the Government to explain why they did not honour the partial agreement which was negotiated in good faith over the past eighteen months.
“We also call on the Government to explain why they refuse to implement the tribunal award and subsequent agreement to cover the funding of legal expenses for Police Officers who are charged for criminal matters, which was awarded over ten (10) years ago.
“The members of the BPA remain committed to providing a first-class service to the people of Bermuda.
Sgt Harewood concluded: “Every day we are expected to put our lives on the line on behalf of the Government to keep the people of Bermuda safe while others have the privilege to run away.
“If we are fortunate enough to survive those dangerous situations we often face, we believe that it is reasonable and necessary for the Government to cover our legal and medical expenses.
“The BPA remains committed to protecting the public and hope to resolve these issues by good faith negotiations without having to resort to arbitration.”