Attorney General Dale Marshall has hinted that a new recruitment and retention strategy would be developed for the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) as authorities seek to make it a more attractive and rewarding profession for young people.
He made the comment on Friday as he addressed the opening of the Force’s Annual Conference at Solidarity House under the theme Community Engagement – Framework for 2020 Policing Action, in which top crime fighting officials called for a new plan of action to enhance human resource aspects of the force and make the profession more enticing.
Marshall said while he was not making a promise at this point, he saw the need for some critical changes to the human resources aspect of the RBPF, including consideration for a lowering of the retirement age.
“You need to prepare for my consideration, a recruitment and retention strategy. Some of that discussion has already begun. You and I both know that the force needs to fill the vacancies within its ranks and to provide conditions to retain its members.
“It is a personal concern of mine that members of the Royal Barbados Police Force are not treated on a similar footing as members of the Barbados Defence Force. The BDF members get to retire at age 45 in some instances and 55 in others. Therefore we have to find ways of improving your conditions where possible by lowering the retirement age and that will have the effect of creating faster vacancies at the higher ranks and allowing junior officers to move through speedily,” he said to rousing applause.
Marshall also noted that he was aware of the contentious issue of promotion that needed to be addressed, adding that while he would not get involved directly in that process, Government had introduced the Protective Services Commission to help speed up processes relating to promotion and to ensure that a transparent merit base process was employed.
He gave no indication of a timeline for proposed employment practices in the force, but also pointed out that special constables’ concern about the lack of tenure should be addressed by them being “considered to fill vacancies in the ranks”.
“These things have to change. They have to change because the current administration feels we have to attract a different set of people to the policing career and they will not all have five CXCs or a degree, but as long as they have the intellect, the honesty and the capacity to carry out policing I can see no good reason why they cannot be deployed to District ‘F’ in Horse Hill or District ‘A’ in St Michael,” said Marshall.
In his comments, Acting Commissioner of Police Erwin Boyce also spoke on the issue of employment, saying although policing remained a rewarding career young people were no longer clamouring to join the force and that needed to change.
“Today we are over 250 officers short and it seems that our recruiting strategy needs a rebirth. No longer is there a rush to joining the force as in the 1970’s and the 1980’s and we acknowledge that societies have changed and the job market has become more diversified. We must pay attention to what the market requires – compensation packages and associated benefits and not necessarily security in a long-term job,” Boyce recommended.
Adding that the force required applicants with tenacity, commitment and capacity to endure sacrifices, Boyce said he was confident the planned enhanced recruiting strategy would reach the young people in our society.
Meanwhile, Inspector Mark White, Head of the Research and Development Department of the RBPF, said officers continued to display a great love for the profession even “without the attractive benefits”.
Agreeing that the recruitment methods to the force needed to be revisited, White said several things should be done “to enhance” the reputation of the occupation.
“Salaries must be competitive at entry level and at all other levels within the departments. It must change its image of being a male-dominated job requiring brute force. While women make up the majority of the population they are underrepresented in the police department,” he said.
“There must be good mentorship and strong support from senior officers and a clear career development path for those choosing this profession,” said White, adding that police officers should also be treated like other public officers “since they are in no way like other civil servants”.
He further suggested that the qualification bar must also be addressed.
“We all know that the skill, determination and expertise of a good policemen cannot be based on certification alone. The RBPF must therefore prepare for a new generation of recruits. It must outline new and varied opportunities that go far beyond the benefits, public service and security it offers. It must recruit people who are first eager to help others and want to serve their community.”
During the two-day conference emphasis will be placed on community engagement and a policing plan of action to address crime and violence.
Discussions will surround crime trends and the challenges, technology use in the force, challenges associated with human resource shortages, welfare issues, crime and operational targets and administration matters. [email protected]