In recent weeks, multiple police officers have been charged with various crimes, but last Friday Justice Brian Cottle defended the character of the “vast majority” of the members of the police force.
“It is easy to make aspersions, and cast aspersions, and criticize the conduct of the police officers,” the High Court judge commented.
He was speaking at the close of the recent criminal assizes, a time when it is usual for persons who had a hand in the success of the assizes to be thanked, including the court staff, orderlies, jurors, prosecutors, members of the private bar and the different departments of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Police Force (RSVGPF).
On these occasions, numerous high ranking members of law enforcement traditionally descend onto the courtroom, and on Friday they were present, sitting in the cushioned seats normally reserved for the jurors during trial.
Justice Cottle spoke slowly, seeming to choose his words carefully, as he stated that although it is easy to cast aspersions, “It is not as easy to recognize that they (the police officers) too, work in very difficult circumstances.”
“They too take personal risks, not only for themselves, but for their families as they serve the first line of defense for the citizenry against criminal offenders,” he continued.
Further, Cottle noted that to “the Commissioner and his team, officers and all ranks,” the society owes a debt of gratitude.
He explained that our police force comes from our society, and our society is not perfect, and therefore neither is the police force.
The judge acknowledged, “There are elements in the police force who behave in ways which are not appropriate,” but added, “However, it appears that there are continuing efforts to weed out any bad elements. And in my view the vast majority of police officers are dedicated, honest, and hardworking individuals.”
Defense lawyer Jomo Thomas, who was listening from the outer bar, sounded his own review when it came time for comments from the private bar.
Thomas voiced that he believes the police “play an exceptional role” despite the belief by many police officers that he is opposed to them.
He said he is very supportive of the force’s efforts to remove the “bad police.”
The activist lawyer further explained, “when I may make an adverse comment about particular police activity, I may do that because I think it reflects police overreach, but certainly we can only imagine what kind of society we would have if we wouldn’t have police presence and police protection.”
He stated that the duty of the police is recognized and it is hoped that they would do even more to protect the citizens of SVG.
The judge and Thomas were speaking in the context of the arrest and subsequent charge of three corporals of the RSVGPF with sexual offences, within the span of a few weeks.
After these cases were reported in the media, the Commissioner of Police (COP) Colin John, during a gathering of the RSVGPF, commented that under no circumstances will the organization condone any unlawful acts being perpetrated by a member of the RSVGPF.
Among his comments, according to a release sent by police public relations department, John also assured that he, “will not compromise the integrity of the organization for anyone.”