Our Readers' Opinions
July 19, 2016
Policing: A new era of racism

Editor: I am moved to write this article following the news of two black men senselessly killed at the hands of police officers and the retaliation resulting in five police officers being killed. What is particularly disturbing is that one of these black men was killed as a result of a traffic violation. In St Vincent and the Grenadines, traffic offences are hardly arrestable save and except (1) Failure to give your name and address to the police (2) Giving a false name and address or (3) Failing to remove your vehicle when instructed to do so by a police officer. It is a very sad and troubling moment for us as police officers and for black people on a whole.{{more}}

When an officer takes the oath, it is to protect and serve the people. It was never the intention of our founding father, Sir Robert Peel (1829), for police officers to murder citizens or to cause harm to anyone, but rather to protect and preserve the public peace. In fact, let me remind you that the duties of police officers, as outlined by Sir Robert Peel and inscribed in the Laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines, include preserving the public peace, preventing and detecting crimes and offences, apprehending persons who may have committed a crime, regulating processions and assemblies in public places and regulating traffic upon public thoroughfares and removing obstructions therefrom, among others.

We, as police officers, are accountable for our actions or lack thereof, which can certainly put ourselves and colleagues in harm’s way. Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines, when a fellow police officer was killed recently at a school fair, we felt the pain of losing our brother, especially because of the circumstances in which he met his death. This should not have happened. Equally, I am not condoning the killing of the five officers by the hands of a civilian. One would have thought that the beating of an American taxi driver, Rodney King, on March 3, 1991 at the hands of the Los Angeles police officers, following a high speed car chase while drunk, would have been a learning lesson for the manner in which officers conduct themselves while on duty. However, we have seen, since then, more unarmed black men being killed innocently at the hands of white police officers. According to a Guardian study in 2015, black men were nine times more likely to get killed by police, compared to other races.

We, as officers, have a very hard task to perform, but when we cannot justify our senseless actions and kill citizens, whether by hatred, racism, or generally by abusing our power, they, too, have loved ones who will mourn their losses. Their families may be dependent upon them. Let us remember that all lives matter, regardless of how bad an individual may perceive to be. We are often told that when America blows its nose, the world catches a cold. Let us hope, however, that common sense will prevail and that our citizens will continue to show restraint, respect for one another and for the police. We must work together. Police officers should also receive continuous training, so as to try and eliminate such incidents. Our police force should be marketed, so that civilians would have a better appreciation of what our jobs demands and also what is expected from them. It is vital for us to build the much needed trust and relationship between the public and the police.

Brenton Smith