August 31, 2012
Miller: I have nothing to hide in the police force

Commissioner of Police Keith Miller has refuted claims made by one member of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Fire Service who alleged that the members of that unit are made to work under deplorable conditions.{{more}}

“It seems that person is only interested in self, but the organisation is bigger than self,” he said.

Among the information given, the officer singled out issues relating to the lack of equipment, understaffing and bad treatment from the rest of the police force.

“The impression I got is that they are there, but not following what is going on within the organisation,” Miller said of the person making the complaint.

“They are there but they are not following the efforts to develop the organisation.”

However, the nation’s top cop explained that it has been his intention to develop the various departments within the police force and the fire service has been no exception.

According to Miller, since being appointed commissioner in 2005, there have been a number of changes to the living quarters of the members of the fire service, which included a complete overhaul of that section.

The officer had complained that the quarters lacked proper cooking utensils and appliances and that the area was infested by rodents.

But Miller maintained that the wing in which the fire services is housed was renovated, and included in the new facilities is an office to house the additional Non Commissioned Officer (NCO) position that was created, and a kitchenette which he said was to prevent the officers having to cook their food on a hot plate on the floor.

He said officers used to sometimes rest the hotplate on their beds, which was a fire hazard.

The quarters were tiled, an improvement to the wooden floors which existed before, the commissioner told SEARCHLIGHT.

The firefighter had made the complaint training is not made available to the officers within the fire service.

Miller denied this, saying that he encouraged them to upgrade themselves, especially in light of the construction of the international airport at Argyle and the emergence of the CSME and other economic arrangements which facilitated the free movement of people.

“I told them that they have to be careful and that they have to educate themselves,” Miller said.

“We did an audit and we realized that there were officers who did not have O’levels and for those with O’levels, put in provisions for them to obtain their A’levels, so that they can qualify themselves to do more courses.”

A classroom was set up at the fire station at Arnos Vale to facilitate this, Miller said.

In addition to that, the commissioner said that members of the fire service were recommended to do the fire engineering certificate course and the force paid for this training.

Some had to do over the exam; only two officers were successful at this course, he said.

But all of them had the opportunity,” Miller told SEARCHLIGHT.

Everything was prepared for the officers, Miller contended, but even in the case of the O’levels and A’levels, many eventually dropped out.

In addition to that, some firefighters recently returned from St Lucia where they received practical training.

“So, training is available,” he said, adding that some people believe that unless you go away for training, then what you get locally is not training.

He added that the firemen are routinely trained and that there is always the need for training.

Miller admitted that there is the need for a venue for training of firefighters to simulate structural fires, but there is something called table top training which the officers are engaged in.

“You may not go actually into a scenario, but you will do table top scenarios … that is training,” he said.

On the issue of promotions, the commissioner said that there were some officers who had been promoted recently, included an Inspector and before that two corporals and one sergeant.

When there is a fire, Miller explained, there will be firefighters on hand, but there are also a number of other departments involved, including members of the Rapid Response Unit, the Special Services Unit and the Traffic Department.

“We pool the resources that we have,” Miller explained, saying that there is a structure in place when a fire occurs.

“You do not need to have 100 men to respond to a fire,” he said.

The issue of the need for new equipment was also one of the issues raised by the officer.

And Miller said that it was difficult to have all the equipment that the fire services would need.

“We would never have all the amenities, but sometimes what we try to do and we wish that we could have all, but what we do is get what is sufficient until we can get more.”

He said that the force has made an application for 20 critical suits (which include face masks and oxygen apparatus for entering buildings) and bunker suits.

Miller mentioned the trucks, saying that the tender based at the airport was not designated for the airport, but for Kingstown; it was parked there, because there is no place to house that fire tender at the Central Police Station.

There is also an application for an additional truck, he added, and according to a report by Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Isaiah Browne, head of the fire services, six new suits were obtained earlier this year.

He further explained that Prime Minister and Minister of National Security Dr Ralph Gonsalves had made a request for an audit of what types of equipment are required by the fire service to further develop that department and one was submitted.

Suits, fire hoses and fire tenders are some of the types of equipment that had been given high priority he said.

“So, I am hopeful that pretty soon something will materialize,” he said.

Miller, however, described the action of the firefighter who went public with his complaint as a breach of police policy and the Police Act.

“I have nothing to hide in the police force; the media can call me anytime…we try to be transparent in the police force,” Miller said.