A PO­LICE FORCE IN CHAOS?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By

Toni Ni­cholas & Alicia Valasse

There is lit­tle doubt that the al­le­ga­tions re­vealed by prime min­is­ter Kenny An­thony, sup­pos­edly con­tained in the IMPACS re­port, have de­mor­al­ized the Royal Saint Lu­cia Po­lice Force (RSLPF). In a na­tional ad­dress on Sun­day March 8, the prime min­is­ter re­vealed that a team of Ja­maican in­ves­ti­ga­tors had de­liv­ered an “ex­tremely damn­ing” re­port look­ing at the deaths of 12 peo­ple fa­tally shot by po­lice in 2010 and 2011. The PM also in­formed the pop­u­lace that the in­ves­ti­ga­tors had dis­cov­ered, among other things, that some of the killings were staged by the po­lice, that weapons were planted on vic­tims by the po­lice and that the po­lice high com­mand had will­fully turned a blind eye.

Fol­low­ing the pro­nounce­ments, Camron Laure, the head of the Po­lice Wel­fare As­so­ci­a­tion, had ex­pressed to mem­bers of the lo­cal media the un­ease and anx­i­ety the PM’s state­ments had caused within the po­lice force. He later went on to add that the po­lice force was presently de­mor­al­ized.

This week Laure took to the air­waves again to ex­press his dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the present state of af­fairs within the po­lice force. Ac­cord­ing to him, the fact that po­lice com­mis­sioner Ver­non Fran­cois had been forced into tak­ing leave also had the force in a state of dis­ar­ray. He went on crit­i­cize the act­ing com­mis­sioner Er­rol Alexan­der for not en­sur­ing that cer­tain is­sues are ad­dressed within the po­lice force in a timely man­ner and for not al­lay­ing the fears of of­fi­cers. He went on to de­scribe the act­ing po­lice chief as be­ing a cap­tain who was asleep.

On Fri­day act­ing po­lice com­mis­sioner Er­rol Alexan­der sum­moned a press con­fer­ence to ad­dress the crit­i­cism and com­ments.

“First of all I want to ac­knowl­edge that about two weeks ago I did re­ceive a let­ter from the pres­i­dent of the Wel­fare As­so­ca­tion. How­ever, it was dif­fi­cult to re­spond im­me­di­ately as we were in the cen­tre of car­ni­val. It is the big­gest op­er­a­tional event for the po­lice on the cal­en­dar and it is our re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure that it is po­liced ef­fec­tively and also pos­si­bly in­ci­dent free,” Alexan­der started off by say­ing. “Although I don’t want to “pick a fight” with the pres­i­dent, since we must work to­gether in har­mony for the well-be­ing of the men and women in the force ... so that they can per­form at the max­i­mum, I be­lieve he is be­ing un­rea­son­able and un­fair in his as­ser­tions and he should help mend the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s wounds at this par­tic­u­lar time,” he went on.

Ac­cord­ing to Alexan­der, he be­came act­ing head of the or­ga­ni­za­tion on 9th March when the com­mis­sioner went on leave. “This means that the com­mis­sioner still re­tained most of his pow­ers and I had to con­sult with him on many pol­icy is­sues be­fore mov­ing on,” he said adding, “I still held this po­si­tion even af­ter the prime min­is­ter’s ad­dress on the IMPACS re­ports when I had the press con­fer­ence un­der the theme: ‘Re­as­sur­ance in the face of try­ing times’.”

On March 23, a lit­tle over three months ago, Alexan­der was ap­pointed act­ing com­mis­sioner. “With the guid­ance of the ex­ec­u­tive and se­nior of­fi­cers, we have been able to re­store a level of sta­bil­ity to the or­ga­ni­za­tion amidst all the un­cer­tainly sur­round­ing it within the short space of time,” he ex­pressed.

He then went on to dis­pute the le­git­i­macy of the cur­rent Po­lice Wel­fare As­so­ci­a­tion say­ing that un­der the Po­lice Act the present Wel­fare As­so­ci­a­tion’s terms and con­di­tions ex­pired in March this year. “Elec­tions were sup­posed to have been held to elect new branch boards from which the ex­ec­u­tive can work from ... and the branch boards speak to the var­i­ous lev­els of sub­or­di­nate of­fi­cers. To date, af­ter sev­eral meet­ings with the pres­i­dent, a new ex­ec­u­tive has not been elected,” Alexan­der charged. “Yes, I can un­der­stand that the law make pro­vi­sions for the old ex­ec­u­tive to hold of­fice un­til the new one is in place ... but it raises the is­sue of the pres­i­dent’s man­date,” he un­der­scored, ques­tion­ing who Laure was re­ally pro­vid­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tion for.

The APC then high­lighted some of the con­cerns raised in the afore­men­tioned let­ter in­clud­ing the Soufriere sta­tion, the ques­tion of pro­mo­tions and po­lice ex­ams as well as the public per­cep­tion of the RSLPF. The Soufriere sta­tion, Alexan­der pointed out, was as­sessed by a team of engi­neers from the Min­istry of In­fra­struc­ture last Thurs­day. “They have pro­vided the re­port to the Min­istry of In­fra­struc­ture on the way for­ward in ref­er­ence to work that needs to be done at that sta­tion,” he said.

“In re­la­tion to pro­mo­tions, I would high­light that although the con­sti­tu­tion gives the com­mis­sioner the pow­ers to pro­mote, with me I think for trans­parency and the way mov­ing for­ward, there needs to be a set of rules to guide me as to who to pro­mote and who not to pro­mote. And again with the pro­mo­tions guide­lines, it makes rep­re­sen­ta­tion for pro­mo­tions to be done fairly, to se­lect the right peo­ple to put in po­si­tions,” Alexan­der stated.

Asked about the ru­mours cur­rently in cir­cu­la­tion that mem­bers of the po­lice hi­er­ar­chy (in­clud­ing Com­mis­sioner Fran­cois and ACP Frances Henry) would soon be sent home on pre­re­tire­ment leave, Alexan­der said he would put them down to just that, ru­mours. “I do not have any such in­for­ma­tion,” he stated.

Alexan­der also in­formed re­porters on Fri­day that the cry from mem­bers of the public about cor­rupt and crooked po­lice of­fi­cers must be ad­dressed. “You would agree with me that this is now the time when we have to put our po­lice of­fi­cers through vet­ting be­cause we want to make sure that the qual­ity of per­sons who are pro­moted is not cor­rupt like what the public is say­ing,” Er­rol Alexan­der com­mented.

Act­ing Po­lice Chief Er­rol

Alexan­der fires back.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.