Bermuda Police History - The Years of Transition

Bermuda Police History

1980 - 1999

On February 28th 1981, Mr. Frederick Colborn "Penny" Bean made Police history when he became the first born Bermudian to rise all the way through the ranks from Constable to Commissioner.

During his stewardship of the Force (1981 - 1989) he oversaw many dramatic advances, particularly in the areas of police communications and computerization.

One of the first major developments of the decade was the creation in 1984 of the Police Community Relations Department. With a strength of two Sergeants, it was set up to handle all Press related issues and to coordinate Police community projects.

Prior to this point the Police had operated with just a single full time Press Officer. Now for the first time the Force could become activity involved in promoting itself through community projects.

Intruder Alarms
The Police first began monitoring intruder alarm systems in the mid-1960's. It was not however until twenty years later that demand in Bermuda for hi-tech protection systems really took off.

In 1982 Police Operations officers monitored just over 200 intruder alarm systems. By the end of that decade, two independent companies had established their own central stations and the number of systems installed, Island-wide, exceeded 1,000. Today there are over 2,600 such systems linked directly to the Police or to central stations.

In 1987 the Force finally caught up with the outside world and became computerized. Older officers in particular, who previously had no desire to use a computer, were forced to learn how to operate this new piece of apparatus or be left behind like the Dodo. Some even turned to their children for help in mastering this complex new beast!

Hurricane Emily
Early one morning in September 1987, Hurricane Emily struck an unprepared Bermuda. The Police Force as always was at the forefront of operations to assess the damage, assist with clearing away the debris and to help Island residents to get their lives back to normal asquickly as possible. The hurricane cost millions of dollars worth of damage and many residents were without electricity for weeks on end.

Change Of Command
In 1989 Mr. Clive Donald succeeded Mr. Bean as Commissioner of Police. He (Mr. Donald) was recognized and admired throughout Bermuda as both an outstanding Detective and an excellent all round sportsman.

The biggest cases on which Mr. Donald worked during his Police career were inevitably the murders of Commissioner Duckett and Governor Sir Richard Sharples. As previously mentioned, it was in relation to the investigation of these cases back in 1973, that then Detective Chief Inspector Donald was awarded the Colonial Police Medal For Gallantry.

As Police Commissioner Mr. Donald is probably best remembered for his programme of accelerated promotions (which at the time drew criticism in some quarters). He correctly foresaw an emerging vacuum of adequately qualified and trained Officers to lead the Force in the late 1990's. Mr. Donald countered this by promoting promising young officers ahead of claimants with longer service.

First DNA Conviction
In 1990 the Police Force secured its first conviction in a Bermuda court based upon DNA evidence gathered at the scene of a crime.

The Herkommer Murder
On April 16th 1992, Island residents awoke to the shock news that a vacationing German tourist, Miss Antje Herkommer, had been brutally murdered the previous day on a visit to the Maritime Museum in Dockyard.

Miss Herkommer had come to Bermuda to visit her sister, who at that time was employed by a local jewellery store.

While her sister was busy at work, Miss Herkommer took the ferry to Dockyard and went sightseeing at the Maritime Museum. As she walked about the grounds of the museum by herself, a man working on the property befriended her. He enticed her into a dark passageway and then attacked her with the intention of raping her. In the ensuing violent struggle, Antje Herkommer was choked to death.

Within a few days, one Leroy Burgess was charged with this violent murder. It transpired that he was then a prison inmate nearing the end of a jail sentence for rape. At the actual time of the murder he was working unsupervised at the museum as part of a prison day release programme.

The public was up in arms about the lack of supervision of a prison inmate who was also a known sex offender.

At his trial, the Prosecution agreed to drop the charge of murder in exchange for a guilty plea to manslaughter. Burgess was subsequently jailed for life.

New Chief Of Police
On May 16th. 1992, Mr. Lennett Edwards was appointed as Commissioner of Police to succeed Mr. Donald.

In his Christmas message in the 1992 Police magazine, Mr. Edwards alluded to the recession that was then gripping Bermuda and most of the rest of the world. If officers initially paid little heed to the Commissioner's message, they would soon take notice.

In January 1993 Mr. Edwards dropped a bombshell on members of the Force. He stated that due to Government budget restraints, the Police budget was to be cut by $692,000. Furthermore, since 90% of the Police annual budget went on salaries, he added, the only way to cut cost s was to reduce manpower.

Two months later in March 1993, Mr. Edwards announced that the five year contracts of 23 non-Bermudian officers - 13 West Indian and 10 British officers - which were due to expire shortly, would not be renewed.

Many serving officers expressed feelings of absolute disbelief or anger and the morale of the Force plummeted. The decision however, remained and the officers were let go.

Following the non-renewal of contacts earlier in the year and a sudden rash of resignations, the strength of the Force became severely depleted. In December 1993, in an attempt to return desk bound officers to operational duties, Commissioner Edwards invited Management Services to conduct a civilian feasibility study. Subject to the findings of the study, it was hoped to begin recruiting civilians in the New Year.

First Women Motorcyclists
In April 1993, two women officers, Constables Yvonne Ricca and Cindy Eve-Spencer, made Police history when they became the first female officers to be trained and authorized to ride Police motorcycles.

Royal Visit
During March 1994 the Force was at full stretch for the three day official visit of Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. The Police operation involved 250 regular officers and 70 Reserves.

1994 Heritage Day Float
For only the second time in its history (the previous time being in 1930) the Police Force entered a floral float into a local parade, on this occasion, the annual Heritage Day Parade. The statistics relating to the construction of this float were remarkable. It took 50 volunteers (Police officers, Reserves, Civilians and their respective families), 160 hours to build the float and a further 200 hours to decorate it. Fortunately the efforts of all concerned were recognized and the float won many awards. It was also clearly the outstanding float in the Heritage Day Parade of 1994.

Overseas Recruiting
In July 1994 the failure once again to attract sufficient Bermudians to join the Force resulted in the recruitment of six trained officers from the United Kingdom. Other than Messrs., Coxall, Mylod and Lemay, they were the last non-Bermudian Police officers to be appointed.

Pending Retirements
During the latter half of the year, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr. Alex Forbes, made known his intention to retire from the Force. Shortly afterwards the Commissioner, Mr. Edwards, likewise stated that he too would be stepping down (due to ill health).

In December 1994, the Government controversially announced that the new Police Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner would be brought in from the United Kingdom on contract.



During the past five years policing and politics have become even more inextricably linked than ever before. Every appointment and move made by the Police has come in for political scrutiny, and this has often led to unfair criticism by persons who do not fully understand the issues in the first place.

1995 ~ Appointment Of An Overseas Commissioner
Following the release of the Grundy and Tumim Reports and the premature retirement of Commissioner Edwards in 1994 (ostensibly through ill health), Government sought to hire a replacement Commissioner and Deputy from overseas.

In the spring of 1995 Mr. Colin Coxall was appointed as the Island's new Commissioner and Mr. Michael Mylod as his Deputy.

Mr. Coxall struck a popular cord when he stated from the outset that "It is my avowed intent to make the Bermuda Police into one of the best small Police Forces in the world."

As the first order of business the new Commissioner set about producing a Service Strategy within ninety days of his appointment. That document outlined the philosophical and organizational changes proposed by Mr. Coxall and which were accepted by the then Government. The Commissioner also listed 112 strategic intents which he proposed to develop over the next few years.

The Strategy sought to address a whole range of problems facing the Force, including the rise in crime, the low number of civilian employees, the working conditions at the Police Stations and the high ratio of very senior officers in relation to the lower ranks.

Commissioner Coxall also established an internal Policy Committee. This Committee, consisting of Officers of the rank of Chief Inspector and above and the civilian Heads of Departments, was, and still is, responsible for making all major internal decisions about the running of the Service. Prior to this time the then Commissioner usually made such decisions by himself or in consultation with his most senior officers.

Reserve Headquarters
After extensive renovation work, the new Reserve Police Headquarters Building was opened in November. Reserve officers also adopted a new uniform and a change of name. Henceforth they were to be known as the Bermuda Reserve Police (formerly they were known as the Bermuda Reserve Constabulary).

Change Of Name
At about the same time that the Reserves changed their name, so did the regular Force. The organization was no longer to be called the Bermuda Police Force; from now on it would be addressed as the Bermuda Police Service.

Crime Stoppers
Meanwhile on September 12th 1995, "Crime Stoppers Bermuda" came into existence under the chairmanship of Mr. McNeil Warner.

This non-Police organization seeks to encourage members of the public to pass on information anonymously about crimes that they may have witnessed or know about. Once that information is supplied the caller is given a code number and asked to call back later to discover whether or not he or she is entitled to a monetary reward.

After a slow start, Crime Stoppers is now proving to be a potent weapon in the fight against crime.

1996 ~ Major Reorganization
The majority of the proposals and changes outlined in the Service Strategy became effective on January 2nd. 1996. These changes saw the establishment of several new Departments including Human Resources, Technology, Community Relations and Commercial Crime. The process of civilianizing "key" positions within the Service also began and during the year four senior posts were filled.

In a jointly funded venture, the Bermuda Government and the Corporation of Hamilton invited an overseas company to conduct a feasibility study on the viability of introducing closed-circuit television to Bermuda. The outcome of the study was positive and talks began with the Police Service on how best to monitor an inaugural system covering the city of Hamilton. It was later agreed that the costs of the first phase would be met equally by the Bermuda Government, the Corporation of Hamilton and the business community.

Following through with his plan to prune the very high number of senior ranking officers in the Service at that time, the Commissioner, after consultation with Government, advised Assistant Commissioner Wayne Perinchief and Superintendent George Rose that their posts were being made redundant

The move became a major political issue. Mr. Perinchief in particular was very reluctant at that time to see his Police career come to an end. The matter was finally resolved through the courts and both former Officers received hefty financial settlements.

The Middleton Murder
On the morning of July 3rd 1996, the naked body of Canadian teenager, Rebecca Middleton was found at the western end of Ferry Reach. The 17 year old from Belleville, Ontario had been sexually assaulted and stabbed repeatedly. It was one of the worst murders that local officers have ever had to investigate.

A special team of experienced officers under the command of Detective Superintendent Vic Richmond was immediately set up to investigate the crime. After ten days of intense inquiries, officers arrested two local men for the murder of Miss Middleton.

One of the accused, Kirk Mundy, later pleaded "guilty" to a lessor charge in relation to this crime and was subsequently sentenced to seven years in prison.

At the time of going to press the case against the other co-defendant has still not been fully resolved and therefore it would be inappropriate to discuss the matter any further at this time.

New Community Initiatives
During April and May 1996 the Crime Prevention Unit organized and hosted the first ever Police Night School Programme. Held one night per week for two months and catering to people from all walks of life, it was a runaway success. Each evening officers from different Departments within the Service would speak about the role of their specific Sections. Due to its popularity, Night School has since become a regular fixture in the calendar of events arranged by the Crime Prevention Unit.

September 1996 ~ The Launch of R.E.A.C.H.
The Resistance, Education And Community Help initiative was launched in 1996 supported by the Ministry of Education and utilizing five full time Police officers. The scheme was in effect effectively the first comprehensive schools programme ever established by the Bermuda Police Service.

It was conceived to introduce a positive police presence into Bermuda's schools at the pre-school and primary school level. Following its initial success the programme has since been expanded to include all of Bermuda's Middle Schools.

Glass Ceiling
The promotion of Inspector Gertrude Barker to the rank of Chief Inspector in April 1996 effectively broke the old "glass ceiling" then governing the promotion of women within the Police Service. Until that point in time, no woman officer had ever held a rank above that of Inspector.

NB: At the time of going to press (September 1st) Mrs. Barker currently holds the rank of Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police.

Xing Da
In October the Police were called upon to assist the United States Coast Guard to detain a vessel off Bermuda which was suspected of carrying illegal Chinese immigrants. In what became a major operation, the ship's crew and passengers were brought ashore and escorted to a waiting U.S. military aeroplane. They were then flown to the United States. The rusty old ship, the Xing Da, was later sunk off the Dockyard in 100' of water.

Departure of Mr. Mylod
In September 1996, the Deputy Commissioner, Mr. Mylod unexpectedly announced his resignation. He had six months remaining of his 2 year contract to serve.

1997 ~ New Deputy Commissioner
Following a search abroad for a replacement for Mr. Mylod, Mr. Jean-Jacques Lemay was seconded to the Service from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for a period of two years. Mr. Lemay began his new role as Deputy Commissioner in January 1997.

Somerset Police Station
When Mr. Coxall first visited Somerset Police Station, he described it as "the worst Police Station I have ever visited in the world." Perhaps shamed by the Commissioner's comment, Government undertook to renovate the old building. Those renovations lasted for nine months and in September 1997 the "new" and expanded Somerset Police Station opened for business.

Extended Overseas Training
Looking towards the long term future leadership of the Service, Commissioner Coxall arranged for two Chief Inspectors, Jonathan Smith and George Jackson, to fly to England in January to spend six months on attachment to various U.K. Forces.

"Operation Cleansweep"
Following months of secret planning involving the Commissioner, the Deputy Commissioner, the Narcotics Section and the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (D.E.A.), "Operation Cleansweep" was launched against Bermuda's unsuspecting drug traffickers.

In the initial phase of what was planned to be a two part operation, local and overseas Narcotic officers targeted the middlemen, the drug pushers. The objective was to arrest, detain and prosecute them and to try and obtain information which in the future (phase two of the operation), they could use to bring down Bermuda's drug barons.

Narcotic officers began by keeping surveillance on the Island's drug pushers and recording their illicit transactions on video tape. Then the officers swooped. They made over 40 arrests which resulted in 28 people being convicted of drug related offences.

While the operation was resource intensive, many of our investigators learned, first-hand, what it took to carry out surveillance operations with planned street purchases of controlled drugs followed by further investigations and follow up arrests. The Service is indebted to the D.E.A. for their assistance with this operation.

On April 16th Mr. Lemay was formerly appointed as the new Commissioner of Police on a 3 year contract. He remains on secondment from the R.C.M.P.

In June, after two decades of repeated requests from Politicians, Police Commissioners and members of the public, a Police Sub-Station was finally opened in Warwick Parish.

Overseas Assistance
That same month (June), at the request of the Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands, a five man Bermuda Police unit was dispatched to assist the Royal Turks and Caicos Police Force to investigate a marine tragedy.

That incident involved a Haitian sloop, which the local authorities believed was carrying illegal immigrants to their Island. Dangerously over-loaded, the vessel capsized and six passengers drowned. A further 24 were listed as missing.

The Bermuda Police Unit, headed by Acting Detective Inspector Keith Cassidy, consisted of two officers from the Scenes of Crime Office and three others who spoke Creole to act as interpreters - Creole being the language which most Haitians understand.

New Command Vehicle
In November, on behalf of all the local emergency services, the Police took possession of a 34' Winnebago that had been fitted out as a National Disaster Command vehicle. The vehicle has since been used on various occasions and is starting to become a familiar sight on Bermuda's roads.

Aside from the anniversary being celebrated by the Service, 1999 will go down as a watershed year in the history of the Bermuda Police.

Unsettled Times
In the late spring, frustration with the failure of the Government negotiating team to settle the Service's outstanding pay award (the previous contract had expired on 30th. September 1997) caused a small wave of officers to report sick. The so called "blue flu" was the first unofficial strike in the history of the Bermuda Police. Following binding arbitration a new contract was finally signed in July - it will expire on September 30th 1999.

Meanwhile the Service continues to face a major manpower shortage. Insufficient numbers of Bermudians apply to join the Police each year and no officers (save those of the rank of Commissioner) have been recruited from abroad since 1994. It remains to be seen how the Commissioner and Government will resolve this long standing problem.

The Positive Outlook
In July 1999 the Service launched its new computer programme to replace the original one which it adopted in 1987. The new system is of course millennium compliant!

One month later in August, closed-circuit television (CCTV) finally became a reality when trained officers in Prospect (primarily from the Bermuda Reserve Police) began monitoring images being transmitted from Hamilton.

The Police Cadet Scheme, abandoned several years ago, is in the process of being reintroduced under a very different set of guidelines. Once again it is hoped that the scheme will encourage Cadets to join the Police Service when they become eligible.

Crime Stoppers really came into its own during 1999 and from the information received so far, Police officers have been able to make a number of major arrests and seize large amounts of illicit drugs.

It has also been a time to say goodbye to two long serving Officers. In April Mr. Harold Moniz, the Deputy Commissioner, commenced pre-requirement leave after a record breaking 40 years service.

Just 4 months later, Mr. Alan Bissell, the Assistant Commissioner of Police, followed suit and retired after having served for 34 years with the Bermuda Police.

Their experience and knowledge will be greatly missed and we wish them both a long and happy retirement.

Police Week Celebrations
In October this year the Bermuda Police Service will be celebrating its 120th anniversary (1879 - 1999) with a week of special events. Highlights include a Thanksgiving Service, a special brunch, an exhibition high-lighting the contributions of serving officers, receptions for senior citizens and retired officers, and to conclude with, a dance and bar-b-que.

Closing Remarks
Mr. Ted Burton probably summed up best what policing is all about when he wrote at the conclusion of the 1979 Centennial edition magazine, "Police are people too! Like everyone else, they are only human and, for this reason alone, it will never be possible to have a Service" which is perfect in the eyes of the judiciary, attorneys, and the public-at-large, all at the same time. In assessing the value of the police, one must take into account the vast amount of humane work that they do, which is normally taken quite for granted. Assisting people in some sort of distress is an everyday occurrence to most police officers. Not until one is personally involved is it appreciated, and one finds that the officer who stands in the dock one day being belittled, called a liar, accused of assaulting the prisoner, is really quite a nice chap and handy to have around in an emergency.

"Let us all take stock and give thanks for a Police Service of which we should all be proud."

Historical Review by Sgt. Chris Wilcox, September 1999**This review was reproduced from the publication,

'Historical Review of the Bermuda Police Service 1879 - 1999'. Edited, designed and produced by Sgt. MacDonald.