We are often swift to highlight perceived shortcomings or acts of heavy-handedness of members of the Royal Barbados Police Force.
Whether these relate to complaints from loving mothers preaching the virtues of frequently convicted sons, or absentee fathers belatedly seeking relevance by attributing near-divinity to their recalcitrant spawn, the demonization of our police officers can be a relatively easy task for many.
The speed with which they respond to reports and the subsequent after-report communication with complainants are also among some of the areas that frequently draw the ire of a very discerning public. In most instances, perhaps, there are plausible reasons why members of the constabulary might fall short of the lofty expectations of citizens. But people in desperate need of their services can, understandably, be disinclined to accommodate excuses.
However, for those who have been following recent happenings in Barbados, it cannot have been missed that members of the Royal Barbados Police Force have been doing a fabulous job in bringing serious criminal elements to justice with great dispatch. Over the past ten months –– with perhaps a single exception –– the Police Force has basically solved every murder, aggravated robbery/burglary and other major offences committed in the island.
This is testimony to the dedication and commitment of members of the Royal Barbados Police Force, as well as to the leadership of the organization and a seeming return of high morale among the ranks.
On the other side of the coin, however, the general public must continue to do their part in assisting the organization in fulfilling its mandate to the country. Information provided to the Police Force to assist neighbour or stranger, fan or foe, might be that which proves self-serving in the future.
Criminality possesses far-reaching tentacles. Enhancing security at homes, workplaces, recreational facilities and other social sites is one means of playing a part in aiding the Police Force in carrying out its duties.
In some jurisdictions, the placement of cameras throughout cities, industrial and commercial areas, and places of entertainment is the norm. Some thought –– and funding –– should be given towards a programme of facilitating the strategic placement of surveillance cameras throughout the island.
A surveillance camera at an ATM machine outlet that might have led to the successful apprehension of a suspect is evidence of its worth. The folly that has existed at the Bridgetown Port with respect to objections to such surveillance devices should be viewed as an unfortunate aberration.
The judiciary also has a part to play. The law courts of Barbados are close to becoming the laughing stock of the Caribbean. If the frequent criticisms of the Caribbean Court of Justice are to be taken seriously, then an urgent overhaul in our court processes is required to expedite the adjudication of cases.
A recent development –– the genesis of which is shrouded in mystery –– is also worthy of mention. The Supreme Court of Barbados has taken to giving bail to accused murderers. Of course, under the laws of the land, it is within their authority to do so. But when persons on bail for murder are returning to the court on additional murder charges, then questions have to be asked about the prudence and efficacy of some of these decisions.
Indeed, such occurrences render the hard-working members of the Police Force akin to the proverbial canine chasing its own tail; and also place the general public in unnecessary peril.
We have it on good authority that there are individuals on bail awaiting trial in murder cases that in some instances are more than five years old. In some matters, no evidence has been led. That such can happen in a tiny jurisdiction, with fewer than 300 000 residents, with minimal social and natural disruption, is the stuff of which slapstick comedy is made, and of which the CCJ seemingly laments every five or six months.
But the force is not blameless in this situation. Indeed, our officers can be deemed to be shooting themselves in the foot. Too many serious cases are being dismissed by the law courts for want of prosecution; and in every instance it is due to the absence of the relevant files, the absence of investigating officers on court dates, or a bit of both.
However, this is a managerial and organizational dilemma that can be solved and we are confident it will be. It is in the interest of Police Force and country to deal with the situation. The island’s Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson has spoken –– ad nauseam –– on the issue but he cannot solve it.
It must be rectified within the precincts of the Royal Barbados Police Force.
There must also be a degree of seriousness in agencies that work as part of the overarching effort of maintaining law and order in Barbados. It seems rather counterproductive, and in many instances unlawful, to be having individuals, whether prison, customs, immigration or military personnel, literally “sleeping with the enemy”.
In such a small jurisdiction, it is not too difficult to determine to whom we offer potentially dangerous succour.