Further step in community policing

There has been a Community Relations Branch within the Royal St Lucia Police Force for as long as can be remembered.  In fact, retired Assistant Superintendent of Police Chryselda Branford has been constantly credited with her work in that department.  Over the years though, the RSLPF’s ties with the community has been strained and in an effort to re-establish that bridge of communication, the police have embarked on several strategies, including Operation Restore Confidence.  Since the inception of Operation Restore Confidence, the police have praised the public for its assistance in apprehending alleged perpetrators and in some instances, curbing an illicit offense altogether.
Last week, a delegation from the US Embassy was on island to observe the relations between the police and community and serve in a consultative capacity to strengthen the police force through community relations.  This mission is part of a wider Eastern Caribbean project by the US State Department to respond to local and regional security concerns under President Obama’s Caribbean Security Initiative to reduce violent crimes.
From August 22 to August 26, the delegation toured island’s police stations, spoke to law enforcement and judicial officials, and working side by side with the RSLPF, held discussions on how to implement effective community policing tactics and sharing best practices.  The key personnel in the mission were Robert White, Chief of Police for Louisville, Kentucky, and Public Safety Consultant Robert Olson, former Chief of Police for Minneapolis, Minnesota and Corpus Christi, Texas.
During their week-long visit to St Lucia, Chiefs White and Olson will meet with police and prison officials, judges, lawyers, teachers, business leaders, NGO representatives and civil society stakeholders.  Consultations will be held in Castries, Soufriere and Vieux Fort, and will explore the important roles of police and community leaders in ensuring citizen safety.
As Chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department, Chief Robert White oversaw the successful merger of two police agencies. He brings a fresh approach to crime prevention, combining community-police partnerships with decentralization. By downsizing specialty units, Chief White was able to put more officers on the streets, thereby increasing the department’s visibility to the community.
Robert Olson is a long serving former Police Chief and public safety consultant.  He is no stranger to the Caribbean, having led a significant community policing initiative in the Grants Pen community of Kingston, Jamaica in 2005-2006 in which he worked directly with the Jamaican Ministry of National Security and the Constabulary Force, political and business leaders to implement USAID’s first community policing initiative in over two decades.
On Friday a briefing was held at the RSLPF headquarters at Chesterfield where the delegation described their week as productive, having already discussed their observations with the top brass of the force.
Deputy Commissioner of Police, Moses Charles, said, “I am very grateful to have the US delegation here to assist us, to advise us.  One of the things we have noticed over the past few months looking at fighting crime and developing our strategies, was that we need to get the public on board as well.  That has been very successful and most of our operations have been intelligence led but there is always room for improvement.”
In the spirit of moving forward he noted, “What has been happening in the past is that the police have closed up a little.  We need to open up because we cannot have a police officer in every corner of St Lucia and we need to open up to the public to allow informers  to feed us with information and issues that are affecting  them on a daily basis.  One of the issues that came up during our brainstorming was follow up: where a matter is being investigated and all the victim might be asking is to be updated with what is happening his/her matter.  We have to treat residents with dignity and respect because if more residents are engaged, the greater opportunity you have for evading crime.”
This visit follows a four island community policing seminar and consultation series in October 2010.

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