PM to Cops: Change Is Com­ing!

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

Toni Ni­cholas To mis­quote Bob Mar­ley: “There’s an air of un­nat­u­ral mystic” sur­round­ing the Royal Saint Lu­cia Po­lice Force. To quote our prime min­is­ter, os­ten­si­bly quot­ing the IMPACS re­port: “Only those en­gaged in ‘wil­full blind­ness’ would pre­tend our only law en­force­ment agency is not in to­tal dis­saray.”

As if al­ready that were not bad enough, the ac­knowl­edged (by the prime min­is­ter) dis­en­chant­ment, anx­i­ety and low morale among mem­bers of the force are fur­ther ex­ac­er­bated by a Min­is­ter of Na­tional Jus­tice ob­vi­ously out of his depth.

The prime min­is­ter’s IMPACS-re­lated com­ments added more bod­ies to the pyre. And now many of­fi­cers are ask­ing whether there was more to the ad­dress de­liv­ered by Dr. An­thony than met their ears. Was it mere co­in­ci­dence that the prime min­is­ter’s speech was headed “New times, New lead­er­ship?” Did it have any­thing to do with the prime min­is­ter’s ear­lier dec­la­ra­tion that the IMPACS re­port, that he promised not to pre­judge, was in fact “damn­ing?” Who ex­actly are the damned?

Said Dr. An­thony in his most re­cent state­ment to the na­tion’s far from happy guardians of life and prop­erty dur­ing a pro­mo­tions cer­e­mony: “You know the rigours and chal­lenges of work­ing in law en­force­ment. You know the sac­ri­fices that are made, per­son­ally, and by your loved ones, in your ex­er­cise of duty. You know what it has taken to reach this far: the time and ef­fort, the ded­i­ca­tion to your du­ties and your per­sonal path­ways to­wards self­de­vel­op­ment.

“To­day’s pro­mo­tion ex­er­cise must build the col­lec­tive con­fi­dence of the so­ci­ety in its prin­ci­pal law en­force­ment agency.”

At this point the prime min­is­ter’s ad­dress seemed to take a cu­ri­ous turn, per­haps in the di­rec­tion of IMPACS: “So­ci­ety will have more con­fi­dence in a po­lice force in which they know of­fi­cers are led by women and men of char­ac­ter, courage and in­de­pen­dence, to­tally and ab­so­lutely com­mit­ted to ap­ply­ing the law with­out mo­tive, ill-will or mal­ice. The po­lice force must not be a place of refuge for those who har­bour ha­tred and ill-will to oth­ers, be it their neigh­bour or oth­er­wise.”

For some, the above­quoted lines were a naked warn­ing, hope­fully ap­peas­ing to the US State Depart­ment, of a planned im­mi­nent cleans­ing of the force, be­gin­ning with vac­tion­ing com­mis­sioner Ver­non Fran­cois.

The prime min­is­ter ob­served that un­til quite re­cently the mat­ter of po­lice pro­mo­tions had been a been “a vexed is­sue.”

“It has un­doubt­edly been a source of anx­i­ety and em­bar­rass­ment for the en­tire force, with ac­cu­sa­tions of cliques and cir­cles hold­ing sway when it came to ad­vance­ment through the ranks,” said the PM. “It has taken us some time to de­sign and im­ple­ment a for­mula for pro­mo­tions in the Royal Saint Lu­cia Po­lice Force. This new sys­tem may not be per­fect but it is far bet­ter than what ex­isted in the past.”

Ad­di­tion­ally: “What­ever flaws ex­ist, we need to re­solve them, as it is vi­tal that all po­lice of­fi­cers are con­fi­dent in the de­ci­sions yielded by the process. We must make a break with the past.”

He blamed on an ear­lier pro­mo­tion sys­tem po­lice “de­mo­ti­va­tion and de­mor­al­i­sa­tion, cor­rup­tion, abuse of power, dis­re­spect and in­sub­or­di­na­tion, and in­deed, even at­tri­tion of those who are frus­trated.”

He said: “It is cru­cial that we move to a sys­tem that is clear and ac­count­able and which leans less on the in­flu­ence of the sub­jec­tive and more on the ob­jec­tiv­ity of test­ing, ex­am­i­na­tions and for­mal in­ter­views. Find­ing the right bal­ance in de­vel­op­ing a frame­work for pro­mo­tions has thus been no easy ac­com­plish­ment in it­self.”

He came fi­nally to the IMPACS ele­phant in the room. “In the past few months,” said the prime min­is­ter, “we know of the deep chal­lenges that have come to the fore re­gard­ing the al­leged ac­tions and in­volve­ment of some mem­bers of the force. This has meant chal­lenges at all lev­els, from con­sta­ble to com­mis­sioner, from po­lice to politi­cian.

“If we can sum up very suc­cinctly what is at is­sue, it is this: no one is above the law. Ev­ery­one must be ac­count­able for their ac­tions. This ap­plies not only to the par­lia­men­tar­i­ans who make the law, but also to those who are en­trusted to ad­min­is­ter and pro­nounce on the law in the name of the so­ci­ety. For me, the law is ma­jes­tic; when a po­lice of­fi­cer uses the law as an in­stru­ment of re­venge, spite and ill-will then he or she has no place in the Royal Saint Lu­cia Po­lice Force.”

In an ear­lier na­tional ad­dress, the prime min­is­ter said some of the crimes that made head­lines were com­mit­ted not only by gangs but also “politi­cians, busi­ness peo­ple and po­lice of­fi­cers.” He added that the IMPACS re­port had rec­om­mended that all fin­gered in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of so-called “gross vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights” be brought to jus­tice.

The re­port has been at the of­fice of the DPP for sev­eral weeks, with­out com­ment.

As I write I have been as­sured by a re­li­able source that the gov­ern­ment is con­sult­ing with a le­gal team on the early re­tire­ment of a num­ber of se­nior po­lice of­fi­cers “in the public in­ter­est.” These in­clude po­lice com­mis­sioner Ver­non Fran­cois whose leave has twice been ex­tended this year by the public ser­vice com­mis­sion fol­low­ing the prime min­is­ter’s ad­dress on the IMPACS re­port.

Quizzed about the IMPACS re­port on Wed­nes­day, act­ing prime min­is­ter Philip J Pierre told an HTS re­porter: “We can­not get in­volved in specifics. The re­port is not a public doc­u­ment, but I have con­fi­dence in the words of the prime min­is­ter.”

Asked about the ef­fects of IMPACS on po­lice morale Pierre said: “I do not know that ei­ther. You see, I have no means of mea­sur­ing that.”

In­spect­ing the guard: prime min­is­ter Kenny An­thony (with Philip J Pierre and

Philip La Corbiniere in back­ground) con­grat­u­lates of­fi­cers.

Prime Min­is­ter Kenny An­thony Ad­dress­ing Po­lice

Sun­day at a pro­mo­tions cer­e­mony.

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