Bahrain Remembers Innovative U.S. Police Advisor

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While John Timoney, who died in Miami last month from lung cancer at the age of 68, has been praised in the US Press for his role as a ranking police official in New York, Philadelphia, and Miami. Timoney plotted innovative strategies that reversed years of skyrocketing crime according to Boston Globe. His little-known role as a resourceful police advisor in Bahrain in the wake of the 2011 troubles is no less praiseworthy.

Timoney spent 29 years in the New York Police Department where he rose through the ranks to become the youngest four-star chief in the history of that department. He was also the recipient of some 67 Department medals, including the Medal of Valour. He subsequently spent a total of 11 years as head of police in Philadelphia and then Miami.

In 2011, Timoney was hired as a Police Advisor to the Minister of Interior in Bahrain. His responsibilities included police reform, establishing best practices and implementing the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry set up by the Kingdom in the aftermath of the troubles. Criticised by certain rights groups and a section of the western media, he told them he wouldn’t have been in Bahrain if he wasn’t convinced that these folks are serious about reform.

Subsequently, Timoney led a team of law enforcement advisers from the US and the UK, who trained Bahrain’s police force. He also conducted a thorough review of the Bahrain Public Security Force to identify deficiencies and weaknesses and to help develop a strategic plan to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the force through internationally-recognised best practices.

john timoney, U.S. Police Advisor.
John Timoney, U.S. Police Officer and Advisor to Bahrain.

Timoney was also instrumental in the creation of the new Use of Force policy for police officers in Bahrain. The new policy, along with relevant UN documents on the use of force and policing, are now taught at the Royal Police Academy and serve as the basis for disciplinary action in the event of police misconduct.

He was keen on policing and best practices and standards in Bahrain and the Middle East and advised police officials from the Ministry of Interior down through the ranks on the best practices in areas such as human rights safeguards in the arrest-to-detention continuum, accountability, use of force, public order, counter-terrorism, police administration, media relations, Police Academy curriculum, and analysis of crime statistics. He also investigated inquiries from human rights organisations and foreign governments regarding allegations of police misconduct and other alleged human rights violations.

Timoney was also the brain behind the Code of Conduct for Bahraini police and the establishment of the Ombudsman, inspired by the UK’s ombudsman model, and based on BICI recommendations. Drafted along with his team of legal and policing experts, Timoney also set up the new social contract between the police and the Bahraini community, which incorporated various international policing codes including the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the European Code of Police Conduct. He also contributed to the development of a special community police model in one of the governorates of Bahrain.

Brij Sharma is an Indian journalist and editor based in Bahrain. Brij tells us the interesting stories we don’t usually hear from the middle east country.