The Police Welfare Association (PWA) held a Press Conference on Tuesday 26 September to address issues surrounding poor working conditions and inadequate allowances offered to members of the Police Force.
Public Relations Officer (PRO) for the PWA, Zachary Hippolyte, deemed the state of Police Headquarters and allowance fee amounts “demoralizing” and declared that a shortage of available officers could be a key contributor to the alarmingly high crime rate in Saint Lucia. “We have so many issues in our stations across the island . . . we have mould issues, we have problems where persons can’t even stay in a particular area if AC is not working and yet we continue to work,” Hippolyte stated.
When the issue of police performance was brought into focus by a member of the press who asserted, “Police officers are not going out there, they are not doing their job, they are hiding…” the Association affirmed that what may appear as skylarking or their absence in intense situations is in fact a failure on the part of the powers that be to replace officers who have left the force, taken vacation leave or have retired. The Association stressed that recruitment needs to increase and that the benefits of the job should also reflect the effort it takes to do it well.
President of the Association Travis Chicot echoed Hippolyte’s sentiments and drew attention to the risks officers face when up against armed and skilled criminals – risks for which they are given a ‘risk allowance’ of $75, an amount Chicot would like to see increased to at least $350 after negotiations with the government.
Among negotiation pleas that the Association aims to take up with the government, Chicot mentioned, “We are looking at our plain clothes and detective allowances, we are looking at our lodging allowances, all the allowances on the books except the proficiency and vocational allowance.”
A member of the press brought up a recent case involving a bandit who was jailed with several car keys in his possession and later released on bail. In response, PWA executives stressed that in such instances officers “do their part”.
According to a member of the Association: “We caught a guy with several keys, we cannot speak for the Judiciary”, a point that tied in with the Association’s requests that everyone needs to contribute to making the country a safer place; everyone, according to the executive, including civilians whom they encouraged to find ways of securing their vehicles by reading and obtaining advice via the internet.
The Association also called on other central services like the Bordelais Correctional Facility and the Firefighting Service to get on board as they prepare to take these negotiations before the government and Police Commissioner. However, motivated to incite change in favour of Saint Lucia’s Police Force, the PRO declared, “if we have to do it alone then we have to, but it is time to negotiate.”
On the subject of the negative image of the police force, often openly discussed during informal banter and on public forums, the Association wanted to draw attention to the notion that negative encounters with the police are more likely to be publicised while positive ones are not.
Also discussed at Tuesday’s Press Conference was IMPACS, a long-standing issue that the Association’s executives disclosed has caused accused officers and their families distress. The PWA iterated that it will continue to provide support to these officers until the case is settled.