Have our Police earned their Unsavoury Public Image?
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.