April 23, 2010
‘Some officers out of control!’

One lawyer here believes that police officers need to use a more humanitarian approach when dealing with juveniles suspected of committing crimes.{{more}}

Sylvester Raymond Cadette, a Barrister at Law, is of that opinion, after having to intervene on behalf of a youngster who claims that a gun was placed at his head by a police officer attempting to obtain information last Saturday.

“Some (police) officers are going out of control. There are some going about doing nonsense.”

On Monday, April 19, 14-year-old Greglon Thomas, accompanied by his grandmother Veronica and a neighbor, visited SEARCHLIGHT’s office after reporting the matter to the Public Relations office of the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force.

Thomas, a second former at the Adelphi Secondary School, said that he was taken from his Diamond Estate home shortly after six on Saturday morning by police officers stationed at the Calliaqua Police station, and was questioned about breaking the windscreen of their vehicle (G16) the night before.

“The police hold me by my hand and carry me down the road,” Thomas recalled. “A next police say ‘tell me the truth about who break the windscreen’ and I say ‘I don’t know what you talking about’. Then he take me inside the jeep and drive off.”

Thomas said that the vehicle drove north along the Windward Highway.

On their way, they picked up another youth whom they dropped off with another police officer at the Stubbs Police Station and proceeded to Argyle.

Thomas said an officer, who he said was referred to as ‘David’, took him to an empty container in the vicinity of the airport construction site with two other officers, armed with hand guns.

“They cock they gun and say ‘Tell me the truth who break the windscreen or we will shoot you!’ and I still say I don’t know what you talking about, I wasn’t there.”

Thomas said, after asking the questions a few more times, accompanied by threats and insults, the men moved him from the container and took him to the Calliaqua Police Station where the interrogation continued.

The young man said that he was forced to stand on one foot for long periods of time and threatened by officers with a cutlass and an M-16 rifle.

It was at this point that his grandmother and their neighbor Judy DaBreo called on Cadette to intervene on the boy’s behalf.

The women indicated that they, along with the boy, were verbally abused by a Corporal stationed at Calliaqua before reaching out to the Lawyer.

Cadette, speaking to SEARCHLIGHT from his office on Monday, said that despite not using any physical force on the young man, the actions by the officers in question could have a psychological effect.

“He was traumatised by the ordeal, and this is not acceptable; this new strategy is inappropriate.”

“When a person is suspected of a crime, he or she is to be cautioned and questioned. They have a right to give a statement or not say anything.” Cadette said.

“If they are not charged following investigations, they should be released.”

The Lawyer acknowledged that not all policemen and women are guilty of these actions and said that he believes that senior officers are against the abuse of civilians and are doing their best to change the situation.

“But there are some… once they put on the uniform, they are completely changed, like they lose all sense of humanitarianism and discretion.”

Cadette gave credit to ‘Sargeant Charles’ at the Calliaqua Police Station and Superintendant of Police Ballantyne whom he said spoke with him ‘cool and calm’ when dealing with the matter.

He said that they indicated that they were going according to the rules; but he said that it was unfortunate that they ‘could not see the humanitarian side of it.’

Both DaBreo and the elder Thomas also spoke highly of Stubbs police officer Sergeant Ambris, whom they said was more patient and fatherly to the younger Thomas when he was finally taken to the Stubbs Police Station more that 12 hours after the ordeal began.

Greglon, who was not charged with any crime, had no previous encounters with the police before Saturday, gave a statement in Stubbs and was released.

He indicated to SEARCHLIGHT that although the officers did not hit him, he was shaken up by the day’s events and hopes never to go through a similar experience again.

In February this year, Hadley Ballantyne, Osrick James and Casanki Quow were convicted of physically assaulting Jemark Jackson while he was in custody during an investigation in 2008.

A Public Relations Officer at the RSVGPF headquarters acknowledged that a report on the matter had been lodged at the department and that an investigation is ongoing.