The latest word floating around the corridors of government is that the contracts of several Special Police Constables have not been renewed. The official reason? Lack of funds.
According to usually reliable informants, some twenty special officers were recently transferred to the Bordelais Correctional Facility. Another seven have been sent on indefinite leave.
Rubinia Joseph, the president of the Police Welfare Association, acknowledged she too had heard what she described as “the disturbing rumours” that, if true, would seriously affect the Royal St. Lucia Police Force.
“At the moment,” she said, “not only is the force undermanned, but we are also lacking the required tools, equipment and optimum conditions necessary for properly carrying out our duties.”
Another high-ranking police officer spoke to the STAR Wednesday, on condition he would not be identified. Referring to the non-renewal of contracts, he said: “If this happens it will not sit well with the police force, I can tell you that much. What I will readily admit is that these SPCs, who are supposed to be auxillary staff, in many instances work twice as hard as the regular officers. So they are definitely an asset and any move to cut back on them will hurt the effectiveness of the police force.”
In Saint Lucia, special police constables are appointed by the government on three-year contracts.
“I know that we are facing tough times,” said our source, “and while I understand the government’s need to cut operating costs, they should themselves be tightening their own belts, cutting down on the consultants who do nothing that anyone can see.”
He added: “I also think they need to stop playing games with the Debt to GDP figures. Whether it is seventy percent or eighty nine percent, the fact is it is high and we need to do something about it. But I rather suspect that we will hear something about all of this during the upcoming budget. I cannot see that the police force will be the knife’s first target. It should not be. It cannot be.”
Currently 1,400 police officers attempt to maintain law and order in a population of about 170,000. One police officer- for every 121 citizens. The United Nations recommends a minimum police strength of 222 per 100,000.
“The ideal situation for Saint Lucia would be about 5-6 police officers to every one hundred individuals,” said Joseph. “So as you can see right now we are way below average and any move to send home SPCs will further hurt policing.”