In the advent of the April 1st official appointment of a new Police Commissioner to Saint Lucia, the STAR sat with Acting Deputy Commissioner Severin Monchery to discuss pertinent issues, prior to him assuming his post on what is celebrated as ‘All Fools Day’ on the Gregorian calendar. But make no mistake about it, Monchery is no fool and is well aware of the insurmountable task which lies ahead as well as present issues affecting the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force.
Severin Monchery has been an active member of the RSLPF since January 16th, 1985 to present. He takes us back to when he started.
“When I first joined the force, I started off at Beat and Patrol and, from there, I moved to the Traffic Department, after which I received training for six months at the Regional Police Training Centre in Barbados. Upon my return I spent two years at the Criminal Investigation Department and from there I moved to the Marine Unit where I spent another two years, went back to C.I.D. where I spent another two, and then went on to the Prosecution Unit where I spent 13 years.”
Ironically enough he told the STAR that he was not interested in becoming a police officer in his earlier days. According to him, he was coerced into joining the RSLPF by one of his friends who, at the time, was a police officer. He explained that he decided to write the police exam after being persuaded and ultimately convinced by his comrade.
Monchery shared, “My pen at the time fell on its point,” – this he took as an omen of sorts which to him signified that his career choice was probably not meant to be. “Griselda Branford gave me a pen and I wrote the exam topping my class,” he disclosed. When later, CXC qualifications became a requirement to join the force, Monchery presented his to the organisation’s administrative team and he was accepted into the RSLPF, he told the STAR.
His highest moment thus far, he said, was receiving the news that he had been appointed commissioner of police. The low, he revealed, would have been when he was transferred from the Prosecution Unit in 2005.
Talking about low points, we questioned Monchery on the IMPACS investigation and Operation Restore Confidence and the apparent negativity it has created for the RSLPF and, by extension, Saint Lucia.
“What may have created some concern was the consequences of the IMPACS investigation. When there are organisations or agencies with the range of power that the police force has, one’s actions at some point will be reviewed; otherwise there would be anarchy within the force,” said Monchery.
He continued: “I see IMPACS as doing just that, reviewing the acts of the police. I think maybe the way the information revealed through IMPACS was handled would have been the negative of the whole investigation.”
For the newly-appointed police commissioner one of his responsibilities is “preparing my officers for any possible consequence or any possible outcome”.
“I must say, too, that those persons who allegations have been leveled against, that they are simply allegations for now, and if we are to go by the presumption that a man is innocent until proven guilty, then one would have to give them the full support until such time that they are proven guilty, if at all they are,” the new top cop said.
“I must also add that no one is above the law and if the action of any police officer is found to be in breach of the law, then he has to face the consequences and be brought to justice. Until such time, the public needs to support my officers as much as possible,” Monchery urged.
When asked about Vernon Francois’ sudden exit from the force, the Acting Deputy Commissioner claimed to be “no wiser than the public”.
“I am no wiser than you are, therefore I am not in a position to comment on this, Even Mr. Francois himself has not commented, so I am not even sure that what I am hearing around the place is correct, as we have not had the chance to speak about it.”
The STAR quizzed Monchery about some of the controversy surrounding the application process for the post of police commissioner, which drew a legal challenge from at least one police officer. We also reminded him that it had been suggested on a talk show that the employment standards were lowered to accommodate him.
“The employment standards, as far as I know, when I look at the vacancy notices and the requirements, were at no point lowered to accommodate me. I qualified under the first vacancy notice and also under the second one and I have the proof of that,” Monchery maintained. (He went on to furnish the STAR with evidence).
On the closure of the forensic laboratory Monchery had this to say: “Lab analysis for the police is done by various agencies out of Saint Lucia ranging from Barbados to Trinidad, the Bahamas and some is done in England. As far as I know with our forensic lab and its reopening we were at an advanced stage. As to what has happened lately I do not know; I think the minister was making a concerted effort last time we spoke to get the lab reopened. One thing people need to understand is that not every case we handle requires the use of lab services.”
Monchery became commander of the RSLPF yesterday, Friday April 1, telling the STAR that high on his priority list was tackling the spate of rapes and sexual assaults which have been transpiring of late. According to him, he has plans in place which he intends to discuss with his executive and the relevant stakeholders. “You would have heard of the support team that is in place. I would need to go beyond that. I would need to establish a special team which would be a Rape Detection and Prevention Team, responsible for reviewing all the cases we have had in the past and look at similarities in those cases, and to put in place a strategy to see how best we can work toward not only preventing those rapes, but also in terms of trying to bring some of the perpetrators to justice.”
He went on to emphatically state, “I must say that I highly condemn such acts; it is definitely violating the rights of our females, invading their privacy and we need to tackle it head on. We need to stop these persons and we need to bring those individuals to justice.”
In regards to public trust, he intends to establish a more stringent police follow-up system to reassure the public following incidents of crime, in addition to meeting with the public on a frequent basis to disseminate information. For police officers too, accommodations are being made for the introduction of a chaplain system which will provide moral and spiritual support with the aim of helping them to better cope with their daily duties. Monchery believes that spiritual strength is key in regard to ultimate performance of law enforcement officers on a day-to-day basis.
Other plans on his agenda are to work more closely with the media. “I know the journey may not always be a smooth one, and I know at times there will be criticism, but I do not intend to allow this to keep me away from the media,” he said. According to Monchery, “Criticism can be positive; at times it can be used for introspective via which one’s own image can be built.’
“The media has a role to play and I will allow them to do their job, as long as it’s not done in any disrespectful way.” He also intends to host regular press conferences to facilitate the seamless, efficient and timely dissemination and flow of information to the public. Plans are also on the agenda to upgrade the police pressroom to facilitate more professional communications proceedings.
In closing, and much to the reassurance of the concerned public, at the top of all his plans as the new Acting Police Commissioner, Monchery reiterated: “No one is above the law and, in dealing with crime, no one will be spared. If you have committed yourself, once the evidence is there to prove it, you will face the court system and you will be brought to justice, so there is nothing about you being civilian, or you being a police officer, or being one in a high position. No one is above the law and that is one of the things I will continue to stand by; that no matter who you are, you will be dealt with in the same way as anyone else.”