About 24 members of the Bermuda Industrial Union descended on police headquarters this morning to file complaints against officers who discharged pepper spray indiscriminately on unarmed non-violent protesters.
They were directed to the Police conduct unit – formerly the police complaints authority – on lower Court Street, to make individual complaints. Accompanying the complainants were union officials including BIU president Chris Furbert.
Opposition Leader David Burt joined the group as they left the premises.
The complaints procedure is the first step in the quest for accountability for the actions of at least two officers we captured on video tape spraying steady streams of Captor spray – a form of pepper spray – at protesters outside the House of Assembly on Friday. One of the officers used two canisters simultaneously to indiscriminately spray the toxic substance on protesters at the Reid Street entrance to the grounds of parliament.
Meanwhile, Premier Michael Dunkley and seniors advocacy group Age Concern have joined calls by the Opposition Progressive Labour Party for an investigation into the officers’ actions.
Captor spray is standard “officer safety equipment” for officers of the Bermuda Police Service, we understand. Each officer is issued one canister primarily for the purpose of temporarily incapacitating violent suspects to facilitate an arrest.
Some additional details of Friday’s events have emerged this morning. Police officers continue to privately express their dismay at the actions of their colleagues – with one noting that two decades of cultivating good community relations had been dashed in just a few minutes.
The officer seen to be using two canisters had taken one from another officer before spraying at the protesters so furiously that other officers were contaminated with the substance commonly known as pepper spray, according to one police source. Earlier that morning, one man had been arrested after he attacked a police officer with a stick. He was pulled away by about three bystanders.
Police officers who had been mingling freely with the protesters during the morning hours had been caught off guard by the arrival of the riot gear police in the afternoon.
Desnell Davies, one of the complainants at the police conduct unit, told us this morning that she had to seek medical attention at the hospital on Friday evening – hours after being doused with the spray – and was given eyedrops and antihistamine.
“I still had this burning sensation in my eyes, face and hands,” Ms Davies said.
She added that she was still feeling tingling in her hands as a result of being pepper sprayed.
And Ms Davies said she had little faith in the complaint process, she said: “They are going to be investigating their own.”
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