‘Officers should get benefit of the doubt!’

The Community Police Training Programme that got underway on Monday comes two weeks after one man was fatally shot by police during what the Royal St Lucia Police press officer called, “a Combined Operation between the Drug Unit and Task Force of the Royal St Lucia Force.”
According to the Police Commissioner, Vernon Francois, the investigation into the death of 28-year-old Dalton Greaves is still ongoing, with statements being collected. Francois says few witnesses were present at the time of the shooting and the police force is appealing to persons who know of anything to assist with the investigation.
“We are asking anyone with information to basically make their contribution to the Director of Public Prosecution,” said Francois. “I suppose we are operating in an environment where whenever there is an incident involving the police, people want the following day for someone to be hanged on the public square but it is not going to happen this way. We have to do the investigation; to make our submission to the Director of Public Prosecution and then we take it up from there.”
He went on: “If there is anyone with information as to what transpired, we will be very happy for the person or people to come forward on that matter for us to deal with it.”
While the Commissioner refrained from making any specific statement on the investigation he said that officers are regularly spoken to about expectations and acting in a professional manner.
“On the scene, they are the ones who are supposed to make the decisions. You have to be physically present on the scene to know what the officer is faced with,” he said. “It is expected that if the officer is faced with a situation that is endangering his life or the life of someone else with a firearm, then it is within him to know that he must act.
“So if there is a benefit of a doubt to give in any situation of that nature, I will prefer to give it to the police officer. What we also need to have is an efficient investigation process or an efficient investigative review process so that we can look at the actions of the police officer to determine what went wrong or what caused him to act in the way that he acted.”
In answering whether it is standard procedure for officers to open fire on suspects who flee from them, Commissioner Francois refused to provide an answer saying that it refers directly to the case and what witnesses claimed they saw on the day in question. However he did say this: “This is a kind of loaded question and I simply cannot answer that. I mean you have to deal with the situation that you are confronted with. The officer has to make a determination as to what course of action is deemed necessary in the situation. The Constitution of St Lucia is loaded with references to how police officers should act in situations of that nature.”
Dalton Greaves was shot and killed by police on Tuesday July 31. He was reportedly unarmed but police say they found cannabis and a pistol with live rounds of ammunition at the scene.

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