* File photo. Minister of Labour, Home Affairs and Housing David Burch
* File photo. Minister of Labour, Home Affairs and Housing David Burch
Madam President, let me first remind of a Ministerial Statement made in this place on 23 November 2009 when I addressed a matter that threatens our very existence - the eruption of gun crime in our country.

I said then and believe now that the Bermuda Government does not have a "magic bullet" to fix the gang activity that is currently plaguing our island home! In fact, Madam President, there is no "magic bullet" to fix the gang activity.

We cannot fix the gang issue overnight. We cannot turn bad to good overnight. Change can only happen if we each do our part.

Madam President, let me first deal with the law and order aspect of what we are doing.

I am pleased to report that we have seen:

* More community police officers on foot patrols.

* More visible police officers in densely populated areas.

* More police patrols in identified hot spots.

* Action is being taken to combat the increasing use of guns among gang members.

Madam President, I can further report that the Government, Government House and the Bermuda Police Service are on the same page with regard to addressing violent crime. His Excellency, the Governor and I together meet weekly with the Commissioner and his senior leadership team - as well we meet individually with them.

Madam President, Senate will already be aware of the various actions taken by the Police to increase operational deployments. I can confirm that a small team from the FBI was on Island last month to conduct a 2 day workshop on gang tactics for the BPS and members of the Justice system.

Madam President, His Excellency and I met with the team and BPS leadership prior to the start of the workshop - those discussions were very fruitful and will likely lead to further assistance. A return visit is anticipated following the establishment of a Joint Task Force on Gangs - one of the recommendations from the workshop - comprising all those agencies likely to be engaged in the fight against gangs - the Bermuda Police Service, H. M. Customs, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Immigration, the Department of Court Services and the Department of Public Prosecutions.

Madam President, Government has accepted the offer from the Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg of assistance of officers from the NYC Police Department Gang Unit. Those discussions are ongoing but considering the political climate both here and in New York there will be no further public comment.

Madam President, additionally Government has approved the recruitment on of a contingent of fire arms trained officers from the UK to supplement BPS stretched resources.

Madam President, the Bermuda Police Service undertook a study to consider the current range of use-of-force options available to it, and to consider the possible use of Electro - Muscular Disruption Technology, commonly referred to as Taser in Bermuda.

Madam President, the less-lethal use of force options primarily available to Bermuda police officers are empty hand techniques, Captor spray and ASP batons. Research has revealed that Captor spray is not always effective, particularly when the subject is under the influence of intoxicants or drugs. There is a significant gap in the available range of less-lethal weapons that result in the Service being ill-equipped to deal with certain types of incidents. This gap could result in an officer justifiably shooting an individual with a firearm due to the unavailability of a suitable alternative option.

Madam President, the study revealed that Taser would enable the Service to effectively deal with specific life-threatening incidents and bridge the current gap. Taser is a brand name for an Electro-Muscular Disruption Technology device that uses electricity to induce involuntary muscle contractions that cause temporary incapacitation.

Madam President, Taser devices have been subjected to independent testing in the United Kingdom (UK) and have been found to have a very low risk of causing serious or life-threatening injury.

Taser devices have built-in accountability measures to determine when and how they are deployed, thereby significantly minimizing the potential for inappropriate use of the device. These measures include a camera fitted to the Taser to record the incident.

Madam President, UK police forces have been issuing Taser to armed officers since 2004 as a less lethal option for authorized firearms deployments. Following the success of a 12-month trial period that commenced in September 2007, the UK Home Secretary has authorized the use of Tasers by specially trained units, who are not firearms trained, in accordance with the ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) guidelines. The UKCOT Firearms Working Group also supports the issuing of Taser to member countries. UKCOT - being the United Kingdom Caribbean Overseas Territories of Bermuda, Cayman, BVI, Turks & Caicos, Anguilla & Montserrat - a joint working group between the 6 police services that set policy on the use of firearms.

Madam President, a phased approach for implementation of Taser in Bermuda has been agreed, commencing with issue to BPS firearms officers and, subsequently, to other specially trained units.

It is anticipated that the implementation of Taser will enable the Bermuda Police Service to more effectively deal with issues where persons are threatening the lives of others or themselves.

Madam President, I can report that I have approved the purchase of the initial deployment of Tasers. We believe that amendments to current legislation are unnecessary but have asked the Attorney General to confirm this and will advance any appropriate legislative amendments should that be necessary.

Government is committed to the maintenance of law and order; we will continually review our options in concert with the Bermuda Police Service leadership and Government House and adjust our actions accordingly.

Madam President, a word about Police funding is necessary as I am sure this is a subject the combined Opposition focus upon. Clearly the current budget does not include amounts for the increased resources that have been deployed in recent months to address the challenges we face. Nor will the Budget being tabled in a few weeks provide for this increased level of policing assistance but let me assure Senate and the general public that I have already had these discussions with the Minister of Finance and my Cabinet colleagues and received an undertaking to meet these commitments.

Those are the tough options - strong law enforcement but not surprisingly, Madam President, as a caring Government who believes in rehabilitation and redemption there are opportunities for those who wish to change their behaviour to do so. I encourage families to take advantage of the agencies both Government and private that already exist to assist and likewise participate in those new organistions created to meet this current challenge.

If we want - as we say we do a peaceful, safe country for our children and grandchildren; then we have to be willing to be witnesses. We have to be willing to identify wrong, to stand up and denounce evil. We have to be prepared to draw a line in the sand determining what we - as a community - will and will not accept.

Madam President, our community is under siege because we didn't want to get involved - but it is past time to get involved.

The job of parenting is not an easy one and it is not a job that parents or society should take lightly. Parenting is also not a job that should be done in isolation. There is a role for Government to play, there is a role for society in general to play and there is a role for churches and religion to play.

Government has many agencies to assist parents. A cursory review of the Blue Pages in the telephone directory sets out what Government programmes exist to help families.

Madam President, of course, there is more that can be done - Bermuda is too small not to have all our citizens playing their full role in society.

In the interim, however, Madam President, I urge all the residents of this Country to continue to stand firm in the face of this seemingly endless cycle of gun violence. Be assured that the Bermuda Police Service is resolute in wrestling back our communities "one street at a time" to quote the new Commissioner. Let me again record at this juncture our thanks to all those citizens who have so far come forward and provided information.

Madam President, while we have seen some daunting days, I cannot stress enough that the public's cooperation is needed now more than ever. These incidents have witnesses and we need those individuals to come forward and provide whatever information they know to the Police.

Let me end by thanking the members of the Bermuda Police Service for their exemplary response to the violence that has been ricocheting through our community. I would also like to thank the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service who have also been on the frontline in this fight.

Madam President, may I end by appealing for any witnesses or persons with any information about any of these incidents to contact investigators at 292-0011 or via the confidential Crime Stoppers Bermuda Hotline at 800-8477. Anonymous tips can also be sent via the Crime Stoppers Bermuda website at www.crimestoppers.bm.