Polygraph tests for police Recruits!

: L-R: Police administrator Philomene St Clair, Deputy Police Commissioner Errol Alexander, Police Commissioner Vernon Francois and Assistant Commissioner in Charge in Crime Athanatius Mason.

: L-R: Police administrator Philomene St Clair, Deputy Police Commissioner Errol Alexander, Police Commissioner Vernon Francois and Assistant Commissioner in Charge in Crime Athanatius Mason.

By the end of this year, if all goes according to plan, all gazetted police officers attached to the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force will be required to have polygraph tests. In this area the RSLPF is being assisted by the United States—a country where most police departments require polygraph tests to be taken even before hiring. A polygraph (popularly referred to as a lie detector) measures and records several physiological indices such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration and skin conductivity while the subject is asked and answers a series of questions.
Additionally, it may also become mandatory for police officers here to undergo psychological evaluation with some amendments also being proposed to the “1965 police act.” Those were just some of the revelations made by police commissioner Vernon Francois on Thursday morning. Francois was at the time meeting with the press in what he expects to become quarterly engagements with the media on matters as it relates to policing on the island.
“I am happy to have this activity in a proactive way so that we can meet; the police department and just general members of the press,” Vernon Francois started by saying Thursday morning at the conference room at Chesterfield house. He was joined by deputy police commissioner Errol Alexander, acting ACP for crime Athanatius Mason and police administrator Philomene St Clair. The interaction, according to the police commissioner would allow members of the media to ask questions whilst the police would update the public via the media on programs which they are currently working on.         “It is really a component of our ‘meet the commissioner’ program quarterly press briefing and town hall meetings in various communities,” Francois announced. The first town hall meeting is scheduled for Tuesday February 12, 2013 in Patience, Mon Repos.
As part of his introduction Thursday, the police commissioner reviewed activities of the RSLPF’s last year which he said was heavily focused on community oriented policing. He also highlighted some of his department’s activities like police health week, their annual Kaiso headquarters which forms part of carnival celebrations here and police week which saw officers interacting with the public and doing community service as well. These included the donation of hampers to the less fortunate, the renovation of a house in Soufriere for a needy person and visiting sick and shut in officers across the island.
Where direct policing was concerned, in 2012 Commissioner Francois told reporters that there was an improvement in intelligence driven policing. “Intelligence really drove our policing. We were able to have a greater focus,” he said pointing to targeted driven operations. “So we spend more time in the crime hot spots in the communities, where we have, through our intelligence, determined there is an increase in criminal activity. So we will be spending more time on the ground as opposed to just doing a big operation,” Francois pointed out, alluding to the “boots on the streets” strategy which focuses on a greater presence of police on the streets. He however
said that the police should not take all the credit for such initiatives, but that credit should also go to members of the public for their cooperation.
In relation to crime, in 2012 according to Vernon Francois, there was a reduction in almost all categories of major crime. Moving into 2013 he says there will be a continuance of intelligence driven policing with the assistance of improved technology. This includes a fully automated finger printing process which will aid in high volume crimes like burglary.
The trend of community oriented policing will continue this year according to the police. Fourteen officers Francois pointed out have been trained in a ‘train the trainers’ community oriented program.
“The idea is to change the mindset of officers from what we are used to, to a more service driven police department,” he said. “I need to warn however, that it is partnership not soft policing. We are not proposing that there will be any let up on people who insist on committing criminal activity, any let up on people who want to continue terrorizing people in the various communities. We are still going to use forceful policing for these people,” he stated matter-of-factly.
Another proposal the commissioner said
which is on the cards this year is the establishment of traffic focus points in the north, south east and west of the island.                 Overall, for 2013, the Police Commissioner says that the RSLPF will continue to work with the general public towards further public confidence and trust and upholding the core values of his organization. He
noted however, that as with any organization there will be bad apples and some who will want to bring down the force from within. “The majority of our officers are hard-working, dedicated men and women but there will be some who will try to bring us down and we are prepared to deal with that,” he noted.                 Once again Francois called for a dedicated civilian adjudicator to deal with complaints by members of the public against police officers, asking that the policy makers move forward with such an initiative.
In enhancing the credibility of the police force Vernon Francois revealed Thursday that there has been ongoing polygraph testing for officers assigned to sensitive units of the force. “I wish to thank the Government of the United States for supporting us in this area. As you are aware polygraph is a very expensive prospect, but at the moment we are able to achieve almost one hundred percent in our sensitive departments like our marine unit, our drug unit, our special branch and our criminal intelligence
unit,” he explained.                 “Polygraph vetting,” the crime chief added, “is a requirement now for working senior officers.”                     “I did mine myself during the course of May last year and also we are targeting the first half 2013 for every single gazetted officer doing polygraph.”
During the media exchange the police chief was asked what was in place to ensure police are evaluated for their mental health and wellness and psychological well-being.
“We have recognized that as a serious problem with police officers. So what we have done is that we have retained a psychologist/ counselor, one north, one south so the officers are encouraged whether there is a situation and even before there is a situation,” Francois expounded. He went on to say that heads of departments within the force should recognize where there is a need based on the performance of officers. However, according
to Cop Vernon Francois, due to the fact that it is not mandatory, some of the male officers due to a macho attitude have to be coerced into seeing a counselor or psychologist.                     “This we want to fine tune and at least make it mandatory in every case for example a police shooting for them to utilize the service. But at the moment it is not mandatory,” Francois says.                  Chiming in on the subject, Deputy Commissioner Errol Alexander noted that such evaluation is really an important part of security vetting now being undertaken.
“Part of the security vetting now consists of a psychological tests so that persons attached to these departments going there, with the commissioner and executive knowing that they are in a good frame of mind and that they could respond properly to incidents,” he said.
Before concluding Thursday’s engagement acting ACP for crime Anastasias Mason updated the media on recent crime matters including the homicide last year of Miguel Augustine. One individual has since been charged and made an appearance before the court this week. Last week the police had to contend with a dead body which was discovered in Bisee. (This was the fifth such incident of lifeless bodies being discovered in the course of two weeks.)                 The deceased Simone Leandre Garnier was said to have suffered multiple stab wounds and two individuals were taken into custody for questioning. “Those persons were taken in, processed, statements taken and they were later released,” Mason reported adding that investigations are
continuing. Charges into the shooting of a Canadian national are expected to be laid against one individual soon. The police also reported Thursday that a rape incident involving one of their own is still an active investigation with the DPP due to receive the files on the matter “shortly.”
The results of a number of unscientific polls held by various media houses in the last two years has revealed some improvement in police/public relations here, with the police commissioner faring favourably in these polls.
However, on Thursday whilst Vernon Francois says he could not promise a perfect world with no
crime or incidents involving both police and civilians, he would leave no stone unturned in restoring public faith, trust and hope in a good Royal Saint Lucia Police Force committed to serving the people.

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