The national spotlight was today turned on the operations of the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) with the National Organization of Women (NOW) calling on the top brass of the Force to ensure that an alleged case of harassment of two females was fully investigated.
However, when contacted the Force’s Public Relations Officer Acting Inspector Rodney Inniss was tightlipped on a reported incident on Saturday night in which two lawmen are accused of harassing a group of three women at the Soca Legends event at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
According to one newspaper report, one of the women was approached by one of the two officers and asked for a dance. However, after he was denied, both he and his colleague, who were said to be operating under the influence of alcohol, responded in an aggressive manner to the women. Police were summoned and the two cops were taken to District ‘A’ Police Station for interviews.
However, up to today the names of the officers were still not released and no charges were laid against them, with Inniss reporting that the matter was still under active investigation.
In response, NOW Public Relations Officer Marsha Hinds told Barbados TODAY the two officers in question needed to be held accountable for their actions, as she issued a call for lawmen to take another look how they deal with harassment cases.
“I hope that what has happened over the weekend becomes a turning point in our discussion about the police force and about the responses to patriarchy within the police force,” she said, adding that “these things are open secrets so it will be interesting to see how this case plays out because police officers protect their own”.
Hinds also called for a full and thorough investigation into the matter, while lamenting that in criminal cases involving lawmen, “you never get names or [find out] what happens with these investigations or if the people are brought to account.
“We are hearing too many of these accounts,” she said.
Insisting that Saturday’s incident was not an isolated one, she recounted a personal experience of going to report a domestic abuse case and being “hit on” by an officer.
“We have heard about police officers using that [domestic abuse complaints] as an opportunity for a dating service,” she said, while pointing out that “it is a reason why some victims in domestic violence situations do not go to the police to report because of the response they get – that not being the matter being trivialized, but overtures that are made by police officers.”
However, while making it clear that it was not all officers who were engaging in the worrying practice, the NOW spokeswoman said her organization was concerned that there were still too many instances of police officers using their influence to prey on the vulnerable.
“We also have complaints from men that after having gone through a police circumstance they then find themselves on the outside of the relationships because the officers were having relations with those same women,” Hinds charged, while warning that there was a bigger issue of the Force and what had become its culture.
She is therefore calling for a change in how the RBPF operates.
“The culture has to change, but the culture belongs to an overall society where women are not valued and domestic violence is still not seen as a real complaint,” she said.