Bermuda’s Governor, John Rankin said today that he is “grateful” to the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) for their independent investigation into complaints, made as a result of the pepper spray clash outside the House of Assembly on December 2nd.
The PCA decision, he said, “sits alongside both the investigations and resulting court proceedings in relation to the actions of a number of the 2 December protestors and the peer review of the police response to the protest carried out by a senior UK police officer from the National Police Coordination Centre (NPoCC)”.
The report on the clash between police with protesters against the airport redevelopment project, said that officers did not engage in “misconduct” when they used pepper spray. But the PCA also said the unprecedented confrontation left a permanent “scar on Bermuda’s history”.
The six-member team also noted that the police used pepper spray “only when they properly believed that it was necessary”, and that no order was handed down from higher up, to use it.
The investigating team said the decision to use pepper spray was taken by individual officers, as per “use of force policy”. But they stressed that using it “could have and should have been avoided” despite the “precarious position” officers were placed in, while following orders sent by their commanders.
In his statement from Government House, Mr Rankin said: “The Police Complaints Authority’s decision finds that police officers only used captor spray when they properly believed it was necessary but also reflects the NPoCC’s conclusions regarding poor police planning and communication.
“I welcome the fact that the Police Commissioner accepted all of the recommendations in the NPoCC review and has acted on them in respect of both training and planning, as seen in the police approach to the demonstrations outside of the House of Assembly on 3 and 10 February which took place without incident and which allowed Parliament to go about its lawful business.”
Moving forward as Governor, he said: “I look forward to continuing to work with the Police Commissioner and the Minister of National Security in the context of our respective responsibilities to continue to ensure that lessons are learned from the event of 2 December by all concerned and that any future protests pass off peacefully.”
Meanwhile, a formal response from the Commissioner of Police, Michael DeSilva, on the PCA findings is expected later today.
The PC also determined that the 26 formal objections filed over the handling of demonstrators by police officers “cannot be upheld”. But they said there was “no question that mistakes were made” on the part of BPS” at senior levels”, when protesters blocked the gates to the Lower House in December last year.