Have our Po­lice earned their Un­savoury Pub­lic Im­age?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - Keryn Nel­son

Con­ven­tional wis­dom dic­tates against speak­ing out in anger. So, I kept my peace and started count­ing. But the aching in my head got the best of me. I spoke not a word. In­stead I sat down to put my feel­ings into sen­tences. Nor­mally, lo­cal re­porters will of­fer the fol­low­ing as an ex­cuse for not hav­ing cov­ered a crime: “The po­lice haven't given us any­thing.” It's not much of an ex­cuse, granted. On the other hand, why does the force main­tain a whole depart­ment de­voted to dis­sem­i­nat­ing in­for­ma­tion to the pub­lic if the in­ten­tion is to keep ev­ery­one in the dark, me­dia per­son­nel es­pe­cially? It seems the depart­ment ex­ists mainly to give out in­for­ma­tion about up­com­ing po­lice work­shops, po­lice sports ac­tiv­i­ties and road fa­tal­i­ties. Their press re­leases ap­pear to have come from tem­plates as only the names and dates ever change.

Last week it was brought to our at­ten­tion that 72-yearold Roy Boughton had gone miss­ing. Af­ter sev­eral hours at the Rod­ney Bay Ma­rina, I fi­nally en­coun­tered some­one who could give an ac­count of what hap­pened to the gen­tle­man the night he al­legedly dis­ap­peared. He agreed to say what he knew on con­di­tion of anonymity. He said many peo­ple were qui­etly com­plain­ing about the demon­strated lack of po­lice in­ter­est in Boughton, de­spite ru­mours of sight­ings and even spec­u­la­tion about pos­si­ble foul play. The po­lice had not alerted the me­dia, nei­ther had they put out any pic­tures of the miss­ing man; no posters.

I de­cided to try my luck at the po­lice press of­fice. A fe­male an­swered my phone call. She said she had not heard of Boughton but would make in­quiries and call me back. Af­ter sev­eral hours, I phoned the press of­fice a se­cond time. Again a fe­male an­swered. I told her I'd been wait­ing for a call­back from her depart­ment and she too promised to look into my queries about the miss­ing yachts­man and call me back.

It was close to 5pm when she phoned to say she had noth­ing new to tell me and was her­self wait­ing to hear from other po­lice sources on the mat­ter of Boughton. She took my con­tact num­ber. I still had not heard from her by mid-morn­ing the fol­low­ing day. By then I had al­ready writ­ten what I'd been able to find out about the miss­ing man, end­ing with “no in­for­ma­tion could be pro­vided by the po­lice at press time.” Out of an abun­dance of cau­tion, shortly be­fore I handed in my story to my ed­i­tor, I took an­other shot at the po­lice press of­fice. There was no re­sponse from the depart­ment so I called the num­ber from which one of the fe­male of­fi­cers had called me. No one an­swered. She later called me back with some de­tails, which I in­cluded in the story pub­lished in our last is­sue. Alas, she did not pro­vide a rea­son for the ab­sence of press no­tices or posters bear­ing the im­age of the miss­ing in­di­vid­ual.

This week I sought to do a fol­low-up story with up­dates on the search of Mr Boughton. I what­sapped the po­lice press of­fi­cer but my mes­sage went un­read. I later phoned the po­lice press of­fice and got con­nected with one of the fe­male of­fi­cers. She said there had been no new in­for­ma­tion. As for the lack of pub­lic no­tices, when I brought that up she an­swered with her own ques­tion: “Didn't you call last week to speak with Cor­po­ral . . .?” I ac­knowl­edged I had and she said: “And you're call­ing again to ask the same ques­tion?” I per­sisted: “It's a new week and I am try­ing to find out what has tran­spired since my last story.” I also asked how many searches for miss­ing per­sons are con­ducted be­fore lo­cal po­lice give up. She had no an­swer to that. I had sev­eral other ques­tions, all of which re­ceived the same re­sponse: “We have no in­for­ma­tion on that.”

As I was writ­ing the re­lated item in this is­sue I thought it would serve if I checked the po­lice of­fice again, per­chance to dis­cover more in­for­ma­tion con­cern­ing miss­ing per­sons, so I mes­saged my ques­tions to the male po­lice press of­fi­cer. When those went un­read I called the press man who said he was driv­ing and would get back to me. To­ward the end of the day the press of­fi­cer is­sued me this mes­sage: “I had a con­ver­sa­tion with Cor­po­ral . . . and she in­di­cated to me that she ad­dressed all these ques­tions with you. In light of this I don't have a dif­fer­ent an­swer from what she in­di­cated to you.”

Is it any won­der that the gen­eral pub­lic show scant re­spect for our po­lice, with few both­er­ing to pass in­for­ma­tion on to them? Hav­ing to com­mu­ni­cate with the po­lice is, to say the least, pun­ish­ment I would not wish on my worst en­emy. The rel­a­tives of sev­eral mur­der vic­tims still to re­ceive jus­tice will tes­tify to that.

I re­call the case of Kim­berly De Leon, how in the midst of a whirl­wind of false in­for­ma­tion Rick Wayne pro­ceeded to read out on TV what seemed like an of­fi­cial re­port of the de­tails con­cern­ing the in­ci­dent at Chef Harry Drive. His re­port was also later pub­lished in this news­pa­per. There has been not so much as a squeak from the po­lice press, de­spite that much of what Rick Wayne said and wrote con­tra­dicted ear­lier po­lice state­ments. Now that her body has been buried, it seems so has the ac­tual homi­cide. The si­lence is deaf­en­ing. The na­tion de­serves bet­ter from our only se­cu­rity force!

Vin­cen­tian na­tional Cenus Hinds is an en­tre­pre­neur who came to Saint Lu­cia on 16 Au­gust to pitch his tourism start-up busi­ness to in­vestors. The 23-year-old op­er­ates an on-line mar­ket­place where his coun­try­men can of­fer unique ex­pe­ri­ences to tourists: for­eign­ers can learn how to make cul­tural dishes. He was sched­uled to leave Saint Lu­cia af­ter two days but, just prior to his de­par­ture, things took an un­ex­pected turn.

While near the Rod­ney Bay bus stop on the evening of Au­gust 17, Hinds was am­bushed by four males. He re­called that at least one of them bran­dished a knife and tack­led him to the ground, while the oth­ers emp­tied his pock­ets. They es­caped with his wal­let con­tain­ing his ID, driver’s li­cense, ATM Card and about $300. They also made off with his mo­bile phone—a Sam­sung Galaxy S9 Plus. Mr. Hinds told the STAR that he re­ported the in­ci­dent at the Gros Islet po­lice sta­tion, then re­turned home to St. Vin­cent. Since then he has made count­less at­tempts to lo­cate his phone. He in­di­cated that he had been able to get the In­ter­na­tional Mo­bile Equip­ment Iden­tity (IMEI) num­ber of his de­vice. (An IMEI num­ber can be used to track a de­vice or can be black­listed by a net­work provider to ren­der the de­vice un­us­able.)

He also was able to iden­tify his phone up for sale on the Face­book group “St. Lu­cia In­vest­ment Group (758) Buy and Sell”—a fo­rum where per­sons can list goods for sale. Said Hinds: “The phone was posted on the group with an ask­ing price of $2,700.” He claims to have fig­ured out what num­ber was be­ing used in the phone af­ter it was stolen, and be­lieves he has iden­ti­fied who is be­hind the ac­count that posted it for sale. Also those who may know the per­son who posted it.

“I have given all of this in­for­ma­tion to Of­fi­cer #606 Cam­ron Laure”, said Hinds. “I have also spo­ken with the su­per­vi­sor of the CID unit, Sergeant Henry, who as­sured me that steps would be taken with the in­for­ma­tion I gave. That was in Oc­to­ber.”

Mr. Hinds says that all com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween him and of­fi­cer Laure ended on Novem­ber 21. On that day he asked for an up­date on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Since then, he says, he has tried on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions to reach out to the of­fi­cer but has been re­peat­edly ig­nored. He said he has tried to con­tact the sergeant on three sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions this week, but his calls rang out.

“How hard can it be to in­form a for­eigner who was robbed that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is at a stand­still, if that be the case?” he said.

Hinds is still in­ter­ested in ex­pand­ing his busi­ness to Saint Lu­cia’s shores but his un­for­tu­nate ex­pe­ri­ence was “dev­as­tat­ing morale-wise”. He adds that it took him a few months to get his head to­gether again.

The STAR reached out to the Gros Islet Po­lice Sta­tion on Thurs­day af­ter­noon for com­ment. We were di­rected to the po­lice press of­fice. An of­fi­cer said there was “noth­ing on record” and that Of­fi­cer Laure could not re­call the mat­ter. At press time, not a word, not a word, not a word from the po­lice.

A re­cent vis­i­tor to Saint Lu­cia is frus­trated by the lack of po­lice in­ter­est in crime in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

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