Remember when governments took every opportunity to brag about their additions to our police force? The number of new recruits? The several new vehicles, purchased or otherwise, for our only security officials? The several training courses undertaken by the higher ranks? Remember?
We need only consult Budget addresses going back just three or four years to confirm all of the above.
Commonplace, too, have been the citizen demands for more police presence in our streets, demands that, admittedly, successive governments have acknowledged and in some cases sought to accommodate.
But now the prime minister has expressed on TV his new Vision-Commission thinking with regard to the police, at any rate, the relationship between their numbers and their performance.
Just last week the prime minister, in answer to a reporter’s question about local crime and our over-burdened and under-manned police department, recalled that in 2011 crime figures were at their highest, despite the presence of a full contingent of officers.
Additionally, the prime minister said he knew—but typically did not identify—countries that were almost crime-free yet did not have large police departments. What was the prime minister really implying? That the size of a police force is unrelated to the commission of crime?
I recall the praise heaped on New York’s Mayor Giuliani and his police commissioner Bratton when they declared what turned out to be a most successful war on the city’s criminals (Abner Louima, notwithstanding!). Remember their “zero tolerance policing” catchphrase?
Within months of the policy’s adoption, New York had registered a 32 percent drop in over-all crime; a 60 percent drop in “non-negligent” homicides; 12.4 in rape and a drop in burglary of 48 percent.
Giuliani-Bratton’s zero-tolerance policy on crime required the hiring of some 6,000 additional police officers, most of them charged with implementing what Bratton described as his “safe streets program.” Precinct heads were rewarded or dismissed, dependent on performance.By the way, during his election campaign the mayor had referred to often-lauded community policing as “social work.”
The above reference to New York policing under Mayor Giuliani and Police Commissioner Bratton underscores the difference between constructive action on the one hand, and on the other empty, self-serving political gibberish.
What was the prime minister seeking to get across when he referred to unnamed countries with “next to no crime” and police departments smaller than Saint Lucia’s?
Whatever happened to the idea of cutting one’s coat to suit one’s cloth? Maybe the unnamed crime-free zones had determined, with good reason, to spend taxpayers’ money where it was most needed.
What’s our reason for maintaining an under-equipped and under-manned police force, when the nation continues to suffer the far-reaching effects of our ever-increasing number of unresolved murders, alleged suicides, rapes and so on?
The irreducible fact is that Saint Lucia has never been a crime-free zone—even when it appeared to be! Saint Lucia was not crime-free in the time of Compton; most certainly not in the time of Louisy; and not in King’s time.
Saint Lucia was obviously not free of crime when shortly before the 2006 general elections the day’s prime minister set up a crime commission, perchance to discover a solution to the rampant murders, rapes and robberies—most of it blamed without evidence on unidentified returning deportees from the U.S.
The day’s prime minister did not in his first term set up Operation Restore Peace and other such initiatives on the basis that crime figures were low. Giselle Georges, Michael Alexander and scores of others brutally murdered at high noon would testify to that—if only they could.
So why the nonsensical official reaction to the cry for more police officers, especially now that the force is some 80 men short and likely to be even smaller in the days ahead—even as crime mounts?
How wrong would I be if I said the prime minister’s answer anticipates more problems with the police, currently under investigation by IMPACS? How off course would I be if I suggested the prime minister knows more about the long-awaited, dangerously late IMPACS report than he is prepared to reveal at this time?
How wrong would I be if I suggested the prime minister’s response to the TV reporter was more pawol jatay at the cops than anything else—his characteristically arrogant way of telling them they are doing a lousy job and should fall in line with the rest of the public service, not long ago ordered to do more with less!