The Barbados Coast Guard intercepted more marijuana and made more drugs-related arrests last year than it did in 2014, but seized about half as much cocaine during the same period.
Acting Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Mark Peterson told Barbados TODAY in an exclusive interview this morning that between January and mid-December 2015 the amount of cannabis seized almost doubled, while there were three times as many arrests when compared to the previous year.
Peterson revealed that the organization, which is responsible for patrolling the island’s territorial waters, as well as drug interdiction, netted 36 kilogrammes of cocaine and over 4,600 pounds of compressed marijuana during 29 counter-narcotic operations. Additionally, he said they seized 17 vessels and arrested or detained 31 persons in a joint effort with the Regional Security System and other law enforcement agencies here.
By comparison, the Coast Guard commander said in 2014, 72 kilogrammes of cocaine, 2,736 pounds of marijuana and seven vessels were seized, while there were 11 arrests.
“Thanks to the joint efforts of the Coast Guard, the Regional Security System, the Drug Squad and the Marine Police, we have been able to make a dent in the amount of illegal drugs being brought into the country,” he said.
However, the Acting Commander was unable to say how significant a dent had been made “because we can only speak for what we know and from what was seized”.
While working to keep the country’s waters clear of illicit drugs, the Barbados Coast Guard, the maritime division of the Barbados Defence Force, has also been working to purge itself of officers who have been “found wanting”.
Peterson disclosed that five Coast Guard officers were reassigned in the last two years after failing polygraph tests.
The tests were conducted between 2013 and 2014 amidst speculation that some officers were facilitating the entry of illegal drugs into the island, but the results were only confirmed today in the interview with Barbados TODAY.
“The results were not as most persons would have expected. They would have been five, if so much [persons who failed the test].
“Once it was realized they had failed, they were transferred from the Barbados Coast Guard. Anyone found wanting is automatically transferred,” insisted Peterson, speaking from the Coast Guard’s headquarters at HMBS Pelican, Spring Garden.
He said it represented a small percentage of the 180 officers who were enrolled at the time.
The 14-year veteran said every single member of the team was polygraphed, including the Commander.
“What I can tell you is that the Barbados Coast Guard polygraphed every single person, from the Commander right down to the most junior person in the organization. At that time it was approximately 180 persons who were tested. A polygrapher was brought in from the United States and he tested every person,” he disclosed.
“We are probably the only law enforcement entity in Barbados where the entire organization is polygraphed.”
Earlier, Peterson had encouraged 30 participants of a Maritime Security Tactical Planning Course to be cognizant of the vital role which they played.
The course, which was delivered by a training team from the Royal Navy, catered specifically to experienced and senior officers from Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.
“I commend you on your accomplishments and encourage you to view your course certificate as more than just a piece of nicely framed paper hanging on a wall.
“It must at all times be recognized as a constant reminder of the very vital role which you perform as senior maritime law enforcement officers in effectively managing your resources, developing strategies and forging national and regional relationships,” he said in his feature address.
“I therefore urge you to maximize every available opportunity to put into practice all that you have been taught so that you can make a meaningful and positive contribution to the maritime security of your respective islands, the RSS sub-region and of the wider Caribbean areas of interest.”