Chances are the individual chosen last Friday to address the young men and women about to set out on their quest to protect Saint Lucian life and property was a new face. It soon emerged, however, that she was most definitely not one of the predictable usual suspects newly arrived from Mars.
Certainly Lorraine Williams was no stranger to the turf.
As she put it almost from the first five lines of her graduation speech before a police academy graduating class last week, her relationship with law and order spanned “over twenty years.” She had been a magistrate of the First District Court and had good reason to know what went into the making of current police commissioner Vernon Francois, ACPs Frances Henry and Pancras Albert, by her measure “some of the best police prosecutors in my court.”
There were other “familiar faces” at the ceremony that had brought many successful cases for the determination of her court, “all excellent police officers.”
But while it was for her “an honor” to be back among the aforementioned after such a long time, it was on the newly minted officers that she focused her special attention.
“I want to congratulate all the graduates and awardees for successfully completing the rigorous and demanding training,” she said.
Herself a mother, a former gender affairs minister and attorney general, and one of the earliest brick layers of the family court, Ms Williams quickly turned away from police matters per se to congratulate attendant relatives.
“Let me also applaud your families,” she said, as the wind played havoc with her fresh hairdo. “They are here because they love you. Your families want to traverse this difficult career path with you and you must permit them to do that.”
She had good reason to know: “The job of being police officers will change you. There is no way around that. So, let your families be there for you. This is not a career that can be faced alone. If you don’t hear anything else I say today, hear this: your family is more important than any job or position you will ever have. You cannot serve others if you are not supported and loved by your own family. If you want to be an awesome police officer, then be an awesome father, son, daughter, husband, wife or other partner.”
She noted that while the academy had instilled in the graduates special skills and “the mentality to meet the demands of your duties,” their training had also been designed to furnish the young officers with “a set of core values: integrity, courage, loyalty, discipline, fairness and professionalism.”
She urged them “not to betray this trust and let those values act as a moral compass” in their work and in their lives.
She warned that as police officers fairly performing their duties they were quite likely to pay a price. “You will be ridiculed by some. You’ll be sometimes accused of doing awful things. And there will always be the untrained armchair policemen who insist on making decisions for the police department. Chances are you will lose friends, and some members of your own family may treat you differently.”
She reminded her audience that we live in a society that seems to have lost its balance, its sense of right and wrong. She cited a rape involving a bedridden 77-year-old victim, and the recent decapitation of a young Babonneau man.
“Something is radically wrong with our society when a school security guard can be set upon and viciously bludgeoned to death by young thugs—and police officers and other guardians of the law can viciously attack their wives and partners without any sanctions imposed on them because the cases against them have been withdrawn for undeclared reasons.”
She paused, took a deep breath, exhaled: “Have we become wild animals of the jungle with no sense of compassion, morality or decency? Our country needs healing.”
Her take on leadership was arresting: “Leadership cannot be mastered. Leaders should stand for something. Leaders must have a genuine belief in others. Leadership cannot be about the leader. Leadership is about influence. If people do not know what you stand for, why would they follow you?”
It was interesting to note the conspicuous absence of the usual ministerial presence. Ms Williams’ take on leadership might have taught them a thing or two, if not given them cause for pause.
She said: “Graduates, if you want to be leaders you have to be a persons of character because in today’s Saint Lucia we are observing the emergence of a strange breed of leaders who have no moral authority to lead. It cannot be business as usual if you want to be future leaders.”
Finally, she said: “As crime patterns shift, you as new police officers will have to bring a new and sophisticated understanding of how technology can enhance police communication and crime control.”
She urged the graduating police officers—“the future leaders”—who will be selected “for your abilities to make sound, thought-out decisions,” to continuously adapt and improve the police force.
“You who will be the leaders and visionaries of tomorrow’s police force,” she said, “must continue to build a strong foundation anchored in the values of credibility, truth, high ethical standards and sound morals.”
Ms Williams, a lawyer who had operated her own chambers until she accepted a diplomatic position in Ottawa in 2003, recently returned home from Italy where for nearly six years she served at the Food & Agriculture Organization.