We, like so many other Barbadians, have had on occasion to criticise the conduct of individual members of the Royal Barbados Police Force and/or some operational decisions of the force’s high command.
We suspect too, that like other Barbadians, we will in the future have to do the same, and perhaps with a degree of stridency that our men and women in uniform will not welcome. On those occasions we will not shy away from what we see as our responsibility.
However, we are not unmindful of the fact that fairness also dictates that when the men and women of the Royal Barbados Police Force do the right thing, which we will readily admit occurs far more often than the opposite, we also have a duty to highlight those occasions.
In fact, we go so far as to make it clear that we would be less than true to the ethics of our profession if we did not make it our business to do so when the individuals happen to be the same as those we might have had reason to criticise. As we so often say as Bajans, “Fair is fair!”
Today we wish to draw attention, without going into details since the matter is before the courts, to this week’s dramatic drug bust at Fitts Village in St. James during which members of the force’s Drug Squad, supported by the Special Services and Marine units and other divisions, as well as the Barbados Coast Guard, seized almost a tonne of marijuana, a boat and two vehicles and arrested and charged five men.
In particular, we express concern about the report from police, supported by innocent Barbadians who were within earshot of the operation, that personnel conducting the operation came under heavy fire from high-calibre weapons used by the alleged smugglers.
Sometimes it seems that we, the civilian population of this country, forget that the RBPF is not made up of super men and women, but our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, who leave the safety and comfort of their homes each day and night to put their lives at risk for our protection. They really do deserve our support — even when we might be turned off by the approach of a few within their ranks.
Like it or not, given the nature of today’s society, they are really the last line of defence between us and anarchy, the last buffer between absolute fear and preserving the sanctity of our homes.
Training, a bulletproof vest, intelligence, planning and team work may all combine to bring the “bad man” to justice, but at the end of the day those who put their lives on the line only return home injury-free, if they do at all, by the grace of God. After all, it only takes a few millimetres of exposed body to remind us of the mortality of man.
Any one of the officers involved in this week’s operation could have been killed by criminals intent on preserving their cargo. We should all therefore acknowledge the fact that when we say they put their lives on the line for us we are not speaking in hypothetical terms — they face a clear and present danger every day.
Our duty as citizens is to inform the police of the activities of these criminals whenever we have information since it can never be in our interest to see those who would do our society grave harm gain any advantage over lawmen — not if we are genuinely interested in preserving that last line of defence that allows us to sleep reasonably comfortably at night.
But there is another critical reason for ensuring that members of the RBPF remain confident that they have the support of law abiding citizens. We should never allow these miscreants to be emboldened by the belief that our law enforcers stand alone. It is one thing for them to believe that they are being watched by the 1,500-odd pairs of eyes of the force and a few pieces of specialised equipment. It is another thing when they have no doubt that 265,000-plus pairs of eyes are on patrol, intent on preserving the peace of our blessed land.
Today, we say to the men and women of the RBPF: “We’ve got your back!”