The police fatally shooting five people since the beginning of the year has been raising some speculation about the tactics of local lawmen.
On Thursday the STAR sat with Acting Police Commissioner Vernon Francois to speak about ‘Operation Restore Confidence’ which came into effect following sharp spike in criminal activity and cries from the public for the police to put a handle on the situation.
‘Operation Restore Confidence’ has been praised and criticized. The latest initiative by the police force serves to target hot spot areas around the island in that police will continue to put constant pressure on suspected criminal elements. Speaking to the STAR, Francois admits it would be “nice” to arrest suspected criminals based on evidence collected. However, in a society which relies largely on eyewitness evidence, when eyewitnesses are scarce, there is no corroboration to arrest, charge, far less prosecute individuals. Therefore the police have resorted to trying to apprehend suspects red-handed with this new operation.
The STAR asked Francois what the projected time frame is for Operation Restore Confidence. Said the police chief, “As long as it takes for us to restore confidence in policing and also St Lucia generally, we will go ahead with it. Typically, in the past we found that when we have these kinds of operations it goes on for a limited two to three weeks and we found that the criminals got an opportunity to get back on track. So we do not have any time frame for it. We propose to keep it up, maybe keep reviewing it but we will keep it up as long as is necessary.”
Operation Restore Confidence has raised a theory of a ‘hit’ list. Said list even got airtime on a local television station. Francois clarified, “Our aim in Operation Restore Confidence is not limited to the Castries area. We have done work in the south of the island and various communities. We propose to continue doing that. In terms of the famous hit list, we do not have any hit list in the police department in the sense of targeting criminals for death. That is not the case at all.”
Francois does admit there is a list which may have been misconstrued.
“You will find photos of criminals and wanted persons at police stations. We have our photo albums that we use of people that have been convicted of crimes. Obviously, as we do our criminal profiling we will have photos of notorious criminals that we’ve encountered. So in order for us to know from a law enforcement perspective who we are dealing with we have actually complied a list of the more notorious criminals on the island. That list is just for routine work where we can monitor them; get to know more about them. We can let our police officers across the island know a bit more about them for normal routine police work. But there is absolutely no intention to execute any one of them.”
(Read more on this interview in Wednesday’s STAR)