• The following statement was released earlier today, July 2, 2020, by One Bermuda Alliance MP Ben Smith, Shadow Minister of National Security…

The impact of COVID-19, globally and locally, and in particular the escalation of multiple social, economic and mental issues associated with the pandemic, cannot be underestimated.

However, let me be truly clear – COVID-19 was not the catalyst for the escalation of the issues that plague our society. The reality is that the pandemic has only served to heighten anxieties and worries about issues that were already present.

Prior to the pandemic and ‘Shelter in Place’, the Government passed the 2020/21 Budget. The most basic function of government is to ensure the safety of its people, yet the Government cut the police budget for 2020/21 by $4 million. All of us are affected when our police and law enforcement agencies face budget cuts.

Sadly, the gang culture and demonstrations of antisocial behaviour has been a part of our culture for quite some time. I commend the Bermuda Police Service (BPS), Pastor Leroy Bean and the Gang Reduction Task Force and other helping agencies for the work that they do in terms of addressing the gang culture.

But none of these entities can be expected to function effectively when the Government does not allocate and provide the necessary funding and/or staffing required to provide for our safety.

Violent incidents have been on the rise over the past few weeks. The BPS has been stretched to capacity and has needed the support of the Royal Bermuda Regiment.

Though it is often repeated, we must be the change we want to see. When a police department is forced to endure budget cuts and cannot afford to hire police officers, we suffer as a community.

I understand that at times, smart and efficient budget cuts are necessary, however, the Government must utilise caution and extreme diligence when deciding to cut the police budget, because at the end of the day, there is no greater duty of government than to provide for public safety.