Our Readers' Opinions
June 25, 2004

Opinion: policing the society

By Commentator

A story in the Monday, June 14 issue of the Star Online caught my attention this week.
The headline read, “Rape, suspected murder, bribery by police officers! Whistle blower speaks out!” {{more}}
The story spoke of many ills allegedly committed by police in St. Lucia. These included, most recently, a missing police safe. Other articles that have gone missing over the years, large and small, included metal tunic buttons to guns (M-16s, revolvers) and ammunition, suitcases of marijuana, cocaine, jewelry, important case files (or components) simply disappeared without a trace and often without comment.
This led me to recall that over the years there have been similar occurrences in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, even in terms of the missing M-16. I can recall that it was alleged that an officer had fallen asleep while guarding the house of a judge and that someone had stolen his gun. The gun was later recovered and the officer fired.
We have all heard stories of missing money and drugs that have simply vanished from the confines of the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force compound.
For the past few weeks, a rumour has been circulating that two top police officers were implicated in the stealing of evidence from the evidence room. The allegations speak about the copying of keys and the removal of items including money. It may just be a rumour, but somewhere along the line things seem somewhat different.
The article in the Star Online goes on to speak about incidents in St. Lucia that had the writer “totally astonished” as a young police officer. He spoke about alleged rapes of female detainees, sex with young schoolgirls, gang sex, suspected murders, conspiracies, bribery, cowardice, indecent assault and indecent exposure-the latter, by a senior police officer who eventually was rewarded with the highest police position.
The writer noted that in May 1978, one week after recruitment, “I witnessed a gang sex/rape involving eight colleagues and one female civilian. The act took place on the bare floor of the General Office of the Special Services Unit (SSU) and continued uninterrupted for over an hour. It began when the female was escorted from Bridge Street into the yard at Headquarters by a police corporal. She apparently consented to have intercourse with him, but when he was finished he called out to whoever was listening: “Food guys, have a bite!”
Over the years, the public in SVG has been forced to accept the judgements handed down by the court on numerous occasions when our lawmen have been hauled before the courts in enquiries that deal with the killing of civilians. Not one police officer has ever paid the price for the killing of a civilian, although on more than one occasion, the police have killed unarmed men without an explanation that pleases the heart. It is noted that on two occasions, deaths have occurred under the command of a certain officer. There is also an incident a few years ago where a youngster was tortured by officers stationed at the Layou Police station.
Police officers as we know are humans, but at times the abuse of authority is clear as the day, from officers telling you to shut up to the sometimes unwarranted searches by the police. Some traffic police are also said to be very overzealous in the carrying out of their duties. There was an incident where a young recruit used his baton to defend himself from a detainee that had slapped him not once but twice. The young officer was sent home citing excessive use of force. Isn’t killing an unarmed man excessive use of force? Isn’t beating a man until he loses hearing in one ear excessive use of force? Isn’t hitting someone with a flashlight excessive use of force?
But then the officer was just a newcomer; he didn’t hold a high rank. Police are here to serve and protect but over the years the police have lost support from persons. There are instances when persons have assisted with police investigations and have had their names repeated to the persons who are being investigated.
I once heard of an incident where a guy had told the Police of a man who had stolen a bike. The Police then told the suspected thief who had identified him causing the suspected thief to confront the informer. It is often said that our police lack investigative skills. One man said that in his opinion there has never been an instance where the police acted on their own to solve a crime, “if someone don’t tell them they can’t catch nobody”.
In my opinion, many crimes, within and outside the force, remain undetected and unsolved. We have, for a small state, too many unsolved murders. Don’t you think that there are people out there who can help the police solve these murders but are afraid that they would be put at risk?
This is not meant to discredit the police but as a wake-up call. There is currently brewing, a showdown with an officer and a young professional. It is rumoured that these two have a long history of interaction, which was not always on a sour note. The problem reached a high point recently with word flying in front various Government officials.
There have also been a number of complaints about the Rapid Response Unit that patrols the streets at night. A number of persons have complained about beatings and harassment, with a woman even reporting that the police searched her house wrongfully. It was later found out that the police in fact had gone into the wrong house.
I must leave you with the thought, however, that the police force is not completely bad. Where would we be without them? But a lot of the bad they do often overshadows the good.