IS PO­LICE FORCE ABOUT TO IM­PLODE?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE - By In­sider

Since the Saint Lu­cia Labour gov­ern­ment’s pub­li­cized de­mand that former Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Ver­non Fran­cois re­tire “in the pub­lic in­ter­est” left him with a rep­u­ta­tion al­to­gether un­mer­ited; since the some­what sud­den dis­posal of act­ing Com­mis­sioner Er­rol Alexander, there has been the drama in try­ing to ap­point a suc­ces­sor. For those of par­tic­u­larly short mem­ory, let me re­mind that the va­cancy was twice ad­ver­tised. In the first in­stance, ev­ery RSLPF ap­pli­ca­tion was ar­bi­trar­ily “not short­listed for an in­ter­view” with the ex­cep­tion of then out­go­ing act­ing Com­mis­sioner Alexander.

Fol­low­ing in­ter­views by the Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion, news hit the me­dia that in­spec­tor Vern Garde, act­ing di­rec­tor at Borde­lais Cor­rec­tional Fa­cil­ity, and Er­rol Alexander were front-run­ners for the post of com­mis­sioner. For a while the word was that Garde’s ap­pli­ca­tion was guar­an­teed since he was widely per­ceived as close to the in­cum­bent Saint Lu­cia Labour Party. Whether or not valid, the os­ten­si­ble guar­an­tee sprang a leak with the ap­pli­ca­tion by ASP Brian Sa­muel - the only serv­ing mem­ber of RSLPF to have chal­lenged the PSC’s ear­lier de­ci­sion to re­ject him with­out first af­ford­ing him an in­ter­view (he con­se­quently filed an ap­pli­ca­tion for a ju­di­cial re­view and in­junc­tion be­fore the high court against the PSC).

Soon af­ter Sa­muel filed, the PSC with­drew its ini­tial ad­ver­tise­ment and re­placed it with an­other, this time with changes to the bench­mark qual­i­fi­ca­tions that seemed de­signed to nul­lify Sa­muel’s ap­pli­ca­tion for an in­junc­tion. In any case his sec­ond ap­pli­ca­tion re­ceived sim­i­lar treat­ment to his first. Again he filed an ap­pli­ca­tion for ju­di­cial re­view ac­com­pa­nied by an ap­pli­ca­tion for an in­junc­tion. While he waited for a hear­ing, the Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion ap­pointed cur­rent com­mis­sioner Sev­erin Monch­ery, ef­fec­tive 1 April 2016. Monch­ery was ap­pointed to fill the va­cant post of com­mis­sioner, but for only six months. This ap­point­ment was made notwith­stand­ing that then Act­ing Com­mis­sioner Er­rol Alexander still had a week to go be­fore pro­ceed­ing on pre-re­tire­ment leave. The sit­ting com­mis­sioner was, dur­ing his last week of ser­vice, ef­fec­tively placed un­der the su­per­vi­sion of his sub­or­di­nate. Those whom the gods wish to de­stroy and all that!

This move in­spired wide­spread spec­u­la­tion among the RSLPF’s rank and file. A con­firmed ap­point­ment on six months’ pro­ba­tion was al­to­gether some­thing new. The mo­tive of such a snap and un­prece­dented ap­point­ment still re­mains a source of much dis­cus­sion. Mem­bers are used to act­ing ap­point­ments fol­lowed by con­fir­ma­tion or non-con­fir­ma­tion, but not con­fir­ma­tion on six months’ pro­ba­tion. This caused more spec­u­la­tion as to what re­ally was go­ing on, keep­ing in mind their men­tal state. Some were of the view that this ap­point­ment was in­tended to just “block a hole” un­til af­ter the gen­eral elec­tions which, of course, the SLP fully ex­pected to win. Oth­ers say the idea was sim­ply to nul­lify Sa­muel’s sec­ond ap­pli­ca­tion for an in­junc­tion. How­ever, gov­ern­ment changed and the six months’ pro­ba­tion came and went with Monch­ery in charge un­til re­cently when the pub­lic be­came aware he had pro­ceeded on va­ca­tion, leav­ing Mil­ton De­sir to hold the fort.

It’s no se­cret that Monch­ery in­her­ited a force in deep cri­sis, un­mo­ti­vated, non-pro­duc­tive and gen­er­ally lais­sez-faire - in the pop­u­lar view as­so­ci­ated with the IMPACS in­ves­ti­ga­tions and a re­port yet to be brought to a ju­di­cial so­lu­tion. Never be­fore has the force been in such dire straits.

In the mean­time crim­i­nals seem to op­er­ate with­out con­cern, free to kill, rape and rob help­less law-abid­ing cit­i­zens. In 2016 Saint Lu­cia recorded 31 homi­cides. As I write we have al­ready recorded 15. Sev­eral days ago res­i­dents of Bois Patat com­plained to the me­dia that they were un­der siege. Mean­while the RSLPF ap­pears more than ever in­signif­i­cant, of­fi­cers un­able to keep their oath to pro­tect the lives of cit­i­zens and their prop­erty - suf­fi­cient rea­son for en­quir­ing minds to ask what re­ally is the sta­tus of Saint Lu­cia’s lone se­cu­rity force.

Was the com­mis­sioner sent on leave be­cause the gov­ern­ment is dis­sat­is­fied with his per­for­mance? Did he vol­un­tar­ily pro­ceed on leave be­cause the heat in the kitchen be­came too hot to bear? Did the cap­tain desert his sink­ing ship with its help­less crew? Is the pub­lic aware how many of­fi­cers have re­tired or re­signed in the last few months? Forty, by re­li­able ac­count. More are look­ing at other jobs, many blam­ing poor lead­er­ship, be­gin­ning with their min­is­ter. Many are fear­ful that a to­tal break­down of the force is im­mi­nent.

The prime min­is­ter re­cently ad­vised the na­tion to ex­pect an an­nounce­ment from the of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions in re­la­tion to the IMPACS re­port. Some five weeks later there has been no such an­nounce­ment.

Se­na­tor Her­mangild Fran­cis: Does the Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter have any idea how close the force is to im­plo­sion?

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