Recent allegations of police misconduct are threatening to undermine the trust between police and residents and hamper lawmen’s crime fighting efforts, according to Acting Commissioner of Police Oral Williams.
At the same time, Williams revealed that members of the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) were being called upon to perform duties such as monitoring garbage disposal.
In an address yesterday at the 139th passing out parade for police recruits from Anguilla and Barbados, the acting top cop did not go into details of the misconduct.
However, earlier this month, a police officer was arrested and charged with two counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. The offences allegedly occurred between July 2015 and May of this year.
Another officer is facing a murder charge for shooting Selwyn Knight of Queen Mary Road, Bank Hall, St Michael on March 15 last year. That officer was also charged with recklessly engaging in conduct which placed Junior Knight, son of the deceased, in danger of death or serious bodily harm and unlawfully wounding him with intent to maim, disfigure or disable him or to cause him some serious bodily harm.
Williams, the Director of Training at the Regional Police Training Centre, told the new officers that citizens had “voluntarily surrendered” some of their powers and rights to the state, creating a level of trust in the police.
He warned that the Force could not afford to betray this trust.
“In such circumstances you will serve as a protective force against crime and social disorder with citizens giving support to your behaviour even when it involves high levels of force and coercion that is lawful.
“When crimes that require extensive investigations are committed they are the ones on whom you can call for the information to assist you. Fortunately for us in Barbados this trust still exist and our people find no difficulty in coming forward and giving us the information needed. However, recent allegations of police misconduct place us at risk of losing that vital support. We can ill afford this,” Williams cautioned.
The senior law enforcement official also pointed to a connection between the police force and economic development, explaining that police officers impacted the lives of individuals and corporations on a daily basis by assisting in providing the social stability needed for investment and economic growth.
He said this too was at risk because the resources of police forces had been stretched in recent times because of the demand for special attention to be paid to certain sectors.
Williams mentioned as examples, tourism policing, human trafficking, domestic violence, illegal drugs, firearms trafficking, child abuse, and even monitoring water usage, theft of crops and livestock, noise pollution “and the last one that I heard was garbage disposal”.
“I have not yet mentioned terrorism, I have not spoken about sexual assault, I have not spoken about accident investigation, I have not spoken about murders, theft and so on,” he said, making it clear that the RBPF was not about to throw its hands in the air and surrender.
The Acting Commissioner also warned the young officers to look out for “members of the criminal world”, many of whom control large sums of money, and to ignore experienced officers who try to get them engaged in deviant behaviour.
“I remind you that once you take the bait you will find it difficult if not, impossible to break away from those elements. You have a reputation and that of a force and country to protect,” he said.
“You have got to be strong. Decide now you will be a leader and not a follower; decide that you will follow the rules and regulation governing your institution and not the advice of deviant comrades,” he advised.