GETTING the United States to lift sanctions against Saint Lucia with respect to access to training by local police officers is proving to be a tedious process.
Nevertheless, there seems to be some effort to appeasing the U.S. State Department that Saint Lucia is doing its part to remove the dark cloud hovering over the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force ever since it came under reprimand for alleged extra-judicial killings by police officers some years ago.
Despite the Saint Lucian public not being given any evidence thus far that definitively finds our police officers culpable, local authorities maintain that while the U.S.-imposed sanctions are affecting the police force immensely, some measure of transformation at least needs to happen in the police force.
Recently, Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony announced that Police Commissioner, Vernon Francois, had proceeded on retirement leave. Francois, under whose watch the alleged killings were said to be committed, was sent on vacation leave in March this year before parting company with the police force a few weeks ago.
Beginning yesterday, the Prime Minister was expected to hold two consecutive days of meetings with local police officers. The aim of these meetings, a press release from his office said on Tuesday, is “to address the implications of the imposition of the Leahy Law on Saint Lucia by the United States, and matters relating to the IMPACS Report.” Other concerns police officers have are also expected to receive the Prime Minister’s response.
Acting Commissioner of Police, Errol Alexander, has been serving in that capacity ever since Francois was sent on leave. Many expected that Alexander would by now be confirmed in that post. However, on Monday evening, Dr. Anthony announced that the post of Commissioner of Police will be advertised shortly. He also noted that a number of senior rank posts have also become vacant over the past few months.
Going back many years, the post of Commissioner of Police has created quite a stir with every man holding that post either being fired or forced to retire albeit for different reasons. With rank and file now grappling with the fallout from the IMPACS report, the search for a new Police Commissioner inevitably comes with some measure of skepticism. Has Alexander’s stewardship over the past seven months been enough to earn his confirmation? Will whoever is hired for the job be seen as a political pick rather than who best suits the requirements?
Last Monday evening, Dr. Anthony stated that even the British are now anxious about the IMPACS matter being resolved. Who knows for sure who else is? Meanwhile, Saint Lucians continue to be witnesses to a police force facing its trying times by being put on trial even though one police officer is yet to be charged for any alleged act of extra-judicial act said to have been committed during “Operation Restore Confidence”.
The selection of the new top cop – whether that person comes from within or without – is a major decision for the force right now. As such, that person needs to have all the right qualities to be able to contribute a positive impact on the force so as to mitigate the negative IMPACS it is now facing.