IMPACS The Deadly Fallout

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

Ihave to ad­mit,” said Saint Lucia’s prime min­is­ter dur­ing a tele­vised ad­dress on 20 Au­gust 2013, “that the con­duct of this ex­er­cise has not been easy for the mem­bers of the Royal Saint Lucia Po­lice Force. It has pit­ted of­fi­cer against of­fi­cer, led to fin­ger-point­ing, ac­cu­sa­tions and counter ac­cu­sa­tions. The de­ci­sion has un­doubt­edly un­der­mined the morale of the po­lice force and tar­nished it rep­u­ta­tion.”

Act­ing com­mis­sioner Er­rol Alexan­der: What pre­cisely is his role in the lat­est cop drama? The ex­er­cise the prime min­is­ter re­ferred to was the now no­to­ri­ous IMPACS probe into U.S. State Depart­ment al­le­ga­tions of “gross vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights” by the RSLPF be­tween 2010-11. As for the “tar­nished” rep­u­ta­tion of the lo­cal po­lice, as far back as 2003 the prime min­is­ter had re­ferred to “a sur­vey of res­i­dents across the coun­try” that re­vealed “70 per­cent of the Saint Lu­cian pop­u­la­tion are not sat­is­fied with the per­for­mance of the po­lice.” He said the lack of con­fi­dence in the po­lice was es­pe­cially ev­i­dent in his con­stituency Vieux Fort and Cas­tries. He took the op­por­tu­nity to cite a dis­traught mother’s al­le­ga­tions that a po­lice of­fi­cer had as­sisted her son’s es­cape from prison. The of­fi­cer had also pro­vided him with a firearm. The po­lice later fa­tally shot the es­capee.

“If the al­le­ga­tions are true,” the prime min­is­ter con­jec­tured at the 30 Jan­uary 2003 launch­ing of a Na­tion­wide Sur­vey on Fear of Crime and Com­mu­nity Polic­ing in Saint Lucia, “it con­firms the view of the pub­lic that there is wide­spread cor­rup­tion in the po­lice force.”

To re­turn to the prime min­is­ter’s tele­vised ad­dress of Au­gust 2013, dur­ing which he ref­er­enced the ear­lier men­tioned U.S. al­le­ga­tions: “The gov­ern­ment of Saint Lucia is clear that the spec­u­la­tion about th­ese so-called ex­tra-ju­di­cial killings must be brought to an end. It is in the in­ter­est of all con­cerned that the full facts of what occurred be dis­closed, not only to sat­isfy the United States but, im­por­tantly, to clear those of­fi­cers whose rep­u­ta­tions are at risk. The cit­i­zens of Saint Lucia must have con­fi­dence in those who are charged with law en­force­ment.”

To help bring res­o­lu­tion “to this un­happy episode,” the prime min­is­ter promised, the gov­ern­ment had taken two steps: “The gov­ern­ment has in­vited the CARICOM Im­ple­men­ta­tion Agency for Crime and Se­cu­rity—IMPACS— to iden­tify three se­nior in­ves­ti­ga­tors from the re­gion to in­ves­ti­gate the so-called ex­tra-ju­di­cial killings; the in­ves­ti­ga­tors will be asked to eval­u­ate all avail­able ev­i­dence and de­ter­mine whether or not th­ese mat­ters war­rant fur­ther ac­tion.”

The gov­ern­ment would also “en­act new leg­is­la­tion to con­duct in­ves­ti­ga­tions of the type just pro­posed so as to en­sure such in­ves­ti­ga­tions enjoy the full pro­tec­tion of the law and that the find­ings of any in­ves­ti­ga­tion are law­fully trans­mit­ted to the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions. This mea­sure is needed to en­sure that a mech­a­nism ex­ists to deal with such sit­u­a­tions in the fu­ture, should such un­ex­plained or sus­pi­cious deaths oc­cur.”

Two years later, the prime min­is­ter again ad­dressed the hu­man rights sub­ject on TV. He con­firmed he had re­ceived a re­port from IMPACS and that it had val­i­dated his 2011 pub­lic dec­la­ra­tion that he had seen a po­lice hit list as­so­ci­ated with the deaths of twelve cit­i­zens fa­tally shot by po­lice of­fi­cers. More­over, that while there had been sev­eral re­lated in­quests, the United States had made it “rea­son­ably clear that it does not have con­fi­dence in the out­come of in­quests to bring those re­spon­si­ble for the killings to jus­tice. The pre­sump­tion [lo­cal in­quests notwith­stand­ing!] seems to be that the killings were un­law­ful.”

Ref­er­enc­ing sev­eral U.S. State Depart­ment sanc­tions, in­clud­ing the sus­pen­sion of funds for the po­lice, the prime min­is­ter said that if they were to be lifted, “we must show proof that we are tak­ing cor­rec­tive steps to deal with the sit­u­a­tion.”

He de­scribed IMPACS’ find­ings as “ex­tremely damn­ing.” They re­lated “not only to of­fi­cers in­volved [in Op­er­a­tion Re­store Con­fi­dence] but, ad­di­tion­ally, to mem­bers of the high com­mand of the po­lice who may have been in­volved in cov­er­ing th­ese mat­ters.” The in­ves­ti­ga­tors had also re­ported, by the PM’s ac­count, “all the shoot­ings re­viewed were fake en­coun­ters staged by the po­lice to le­git­imize their ac­tions.” Even more shock­ing was the prime min­is­ter’s dis­clo­sure that “the crime prob­lem in Saint Lucia is fa­cil­i­tated by cor­rupt politi­cians, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, busi­ness per­sons and po­lice of­fi­cers.”

He brought the cur­tains down on the po­lice with the fol­low­ing: “The in­ves­ti­ga­tors also con­cluded that what op­er­ated dur­ing the pe­riod un­der re­view was an en­vi­ron­ment of im­punity and per­mis­sive­ness de­signed to achieve de­sired re­sults. Will­ful blind­ness ex­isted in re­spect of the com­mis­sioner of po­lice and par­tic­u­lar mem­bers of his lead­er­ship and man­age­ment.” Al­most as an af­ter­thought, the prime min­is­ter said IMPACS had rec­om­mended that “all po­lice of­fi­cers in­volved in the un­law­ful killings of cit­i­zens in re­spect of the files re­viewed must be pros­e­cuted.” He did not re­veal the rec­om­men­da­tions re­lat­ing to the abet­ting busi­ness peo­ple, politi­cians and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

Ear­lier the prime min­is­ter had, in a release, dis­missed as mis­chievous pub­lished re­ports that Com­mis­sioner Ver­non Fran­cois had been or­dered on leave. He also made it “ab­so­lutely clear that there is no in­ten­tion to re­place the com­mis­sioner of po­lice.” Suf­fice it to say Fran­cois is no longer a mem­ber of the Royal Saint Lucia Po­lice Force. First the PSC “wrote to him, let­ting him know we had cer­tain in­for­ma­tion given to us with re­spect to his stand­ing and that we were con­sid­er­ing re­tir­ing him in the pub­lic in­ter­est . . . but then some time af­ter we got word that he was look­ing at or pur­su­ing an­other form of exit.” The prime min­is­ter later con­firmed the failed PSC at­tempt to dump Fran­cois and in­formed the press that the com­mis­sioner had opted to take early re­tire­ment. Cryp­ticly, he added: “The process is on­go­ing . . .”

Mean­while the bomb in the belly of the RSLPF was tick­ing ever louder. Er­rol Alexan­der was placed in the chair ear­lier oc­cu­pied by Fran­cois, al­beit only to act as com­mis­sioner. Act­ing deputy po­lice com­mis­sioner Frances Henry was ef­fec­tively de­moted. Shortly af­ter­ward she went “vol­un­tar­ily” on leave. There were con­tro­ver­sial trans­fers, even as the Po­lice Wel­fare As­so­ci­a­tion seemed to be at war with the gov­ern­ment. Then Claudius Fran­cis told the world via his ra­dio show about sur­rep­ti­tious moves to take down the Kenny An­thony gov­ern­ment.

He said a businessman, a group of of­fi­cers and mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion were con­spir­ing against the An­thony ad­min­is­tra­tion. What the se­nate pres­i­dent said was soon con­firmed by the prime min­is­ter him­self. In­deed, the prime min­is­ter claimed he had known about the po­lice plot long be­fore Claudius’ rev­e­la­tions. As soon as the ab­sent act­ing com­mis­sioner re­turned home, said the prime min­is­ter, he would re­quest a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

This week I learned from most re­li­able sources that the act­ing com­mis­sioner had re­cently sum­moned a high­rank­ing of­fi­cer to his quar­ters. But not to dis­cuss pos­si­ble threats against Kenny An­thony. In­deed, the act­ing com­mis­sioner openly ex­pressed his con­cerns about the of­fi­cer’s ac­tiv­i­ties. In short, the com­mis­sioner re­vealed he had good rea­son to be­lieve fel­low of­fi­cers had tar­geted the par­tic­u­lar of­fi­cer be­cause they be­lieved he had rat­ted on them, to the IMPACS in­ves­ti­ga­tors, the prime min­is­ter and the min­is­ter for home af­fairs.

The act­ing com­mis­sioner was bru­tally frank: “You have to be care­ful. You have to understand, if th­ese al­le­ga­tions are true, what we are go­ing to en­counter within the RSLPF. Your du­ties are not to gather in­tel­li­gence . . . th­ese things are not your re­spon­si­bil­ity . . . but then this in­for­ma­tion I am giv­ing you is cred­i­ble. I am sure you’ve al­ready heard it on the ground. “The thing is, I can­not guar­an­tee your safety at all if that’s the case . . . Th­ese guys are un­der ex­treme pres­sure with things hang­ing over their heads . . . ev­ery­thing that hap­pens to them, some­body goes back and gives the in­for­ma­tion out­side of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. I know it’s not Spe­cial Branch or any of my In­tel units. Th­ese guys are ac­cus­ing you of do­ing things along with coun­ter­parts. Th­ese are dan­ger­ous wa­ters you tread.

“Th­ese days ev­ery­thing is a story: the al­le­ga­tion to over­throw the prime min­is­ter is a story. The min­is­ter of home af­fairs call­ing me in the morn­ing and say­ing there is a threat on his life . . . and there are other sto­ries. Th­ese things are caus­ing dis­af­fec­tion within the or­ga­ni­za­tion and don’t augur good for it when we are go­ing through a pe­riod of un­cer­tainty. I’m not ac­cus­ing you; I’m just telling you who’s ac­cus­ing you. You need to know how dan­ger­ous it is . . . but I don’t understand how all of a sud­den this kind of in­for­ma­tion is com­ing from the force to the min­is­ter. I need to know the per­sons do­ing this, whether they are spies within the force. There is a lot of ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion I have . . . and per­sons are ac­cus­ing you!” Reprinted from Oc­to­ber 17, 2015

Where has Er­rol Alexan­der gone? Has the Act­ing Com­mis­sioner lost his voice

to the DPP’s thun­der?

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