March 8, 2007

Hats off to the police


Any nation’s police forcE is subject to the greatest of scrutiny, and when it is perceived to fall short of expectation – reproach. It is no secret that the good the police do on a daily basis goes unheralded and unsung, while any atrocities committed at their hands are cause for uproar.

The State of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is no exception to this phenomenon and we pendulum-swing between our love of the police for the protection they afford, and our dislike for the invasion of privacy and restriction on liberty they can represent.{{more}}

Searchlight newspaper, has, over the years periodically published articles updating the nation on the number of unsolved murder cases, and opined that if in a particular case there was not a confession or eye-witnesses to the act, it was not likely to be solved.

We have reported allegations of police abuse not only by those held in custody for questioning or on suspicion for the commission of an offence, but also by the general public as the police go about their daily duty.

There have been stories in the past of calls for help being made to the police, with the police responding days after the report had been made.

The list of allegations alone, is enough to form the subject matter of a separate editorial even without elaboration or commentary.

Such is not our purpose today. Over the last few weeks, we could not help but notice the outstanding performance of the men and women in the police service in several different areas. It is therefore only fair that when our nation’s best deserve accolades that they receive them unreservedly.

Firstly, their handling of the march and rally organized by the NDP last week must be commended. As far as we are aware, there were no reports of violence by marchers or onlookers or the use of excessive force by the police as they maintained law and order.

Secondly, the recent arrests in the previously unsolved murder cases of six persons is a big step in the right direction, and very reassuring.

The handling of security and traffic for the 18th Intersessional meeting of the Caricom Heads of Government seemed to have gone well. We have also had positive reports of the force’s stewardship during the visit of President Chavez and its work on the Local Organizing Committee of the Cricket World Cup. All of these events occurred within days of each other, stretching no doubt, the resources of the police to the limit.

In a more general sense, commendations are due for several other departments including the traffic department which has provided unfaltering service (much to the chagrin of many a mini-bus driver) for decades.

With the advent of the “Black Squad” and the “Rapid Response Unit” we now very rarely hear complaints that when called, the police did not respond in a timely manner. Homeowners now sleep much more peacefully in the knowledge that more frequent patrols are now being made of their neighbourhoods.

Special praise is to be given to the Criminal Investigation Department and the Major Crimes Unit for their dedication to duty, two departments in which some of our finest officers serve.

Compliments are also to be given to those police prosecutors who in spite of the lack of formal legal training perform commendably and hold their own against the wily lawyers at magisterial level.

We must mention the men and women who serve with the Coast Guard who have an unenviable task to patrol our large multi-island coastline well known to be a haven for those who delight in the adrenaline rush of high-speed motor-boat chases in the traffic of illegal drugs.

We salute you, the men and women of the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force. Thank you.