National Security Minister Wayne Caines has labelled the Police Complaints Authority’s Report on the airport protest pepper spraying incident, as “disturbing and lacking the closure only proper accountability can bring”.

After reviewing the report, the Minister said: “Ordinary citizens rely on public bodies and institutions to ensure accountability for actions taken and decisions made.

“People must have confidence that where one body gets it wrong, another will make it right. I have shared my views on the decision with the PCA’s chairman, the Governor and the Commissioner,” said Mr Caines.

Airport Protest outside House of Assembly, December 2, 2016

“There is a way forward but that starts with accountability for what the PCA refers to as the ‘lack of planning and poor communication’ that led to the events of this terrible day. I will continue to discuss the issue of accountability with the Governor and the Commissioner,” he added.

“Both this decision and the National Police Coordination Centre (NPoCC) Report of January 2017 speak to significant needs within the BPS related to planning and training. The Commissioner’s acceptance of and action on the recommendations is an important and encouraging step in the process. I am committed to supporting the Commissioner and his senior command team in securing that training as we must ensure that this kind of event does not happen again.” 

Meanwhile, Commissioner of Police Michael DeSilva said: “We accept the determination that police officers did not act negligently or with misconduct is an appropriate finding based on the evidence, much of which was seen and circulated in the public domain.

Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva

“In terms of the views expressed about the mistakes made by senior police commanders, most of this was thoroughly covered in the NPoCC report earlier this year and therefore does not come as a surprise. In my statement in March in reply to the NPoCC report, I acknowledged the findings of the report and I accepted the ten recommendations it made. I took responsibility to correct the deficiencies that were identified in the areas of training, planning, command, communication, tactics, and stakeholder engagement. Much of the work has already been undertaken, and more training is being delivered later this year.”

The Commissioner’s statement concluded: “I also acknowledge that the events of 2nd December left some members of our community feeling angry about the action we took, and disconnected from the police. We continue to work to heal that would by demonstrating that we have taken the lessons on board. We know that the ability of the police to do our job effectively relies on strong trust and support from the public. To that end, we have been working to strengthen that trust by doing things differently. We will continue to implement all the recommendations of the NPoCC report and we will do our part to manage protests appropriately in Bermuda.”