POLICE stations in communities across the country are ill-equipped and as a result unable to carry out their mandate while at the same time severely undermining the community policing structure of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force.
This critical analysis of the island’s law enforcement body was made by Travis Chiquot, President of the Police Welfare Association, Monday on the MBC Talk Show ‘Police Insight’ hosted by Corporal Zachary Hippolyte.
Chiquot also described policing in Saint Lucia as a “modern day type of slavery” and called for a return to the drawing board to put a proper policing structure in place.
Chiquot said that despite the addition to the police force of the last set of recruits, the police force is still very low on manpower. He added that this was affecting police stations across the country due to them being inadequately staffed.
He went on to state that police officers who show up for work at police stations usually stay long hours, sometimes 48 hours, even 72 hours.
“It cannot continue. This must not be the modus operandi of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force. We must ensure that at every point the shifts are properly staffed so that the police force can meet its mandate. We cannot have a police station in a community that is failing to meet its key objective which is community policing,” Chiquot said.
The Police Welfare Association President said there are police stations in communities that are operating with “three, four or sometimes five men.”
“THIS cannot be in this new dispensation,” he added, noting that continued assurance must be given to indicate police stations are properly staffed in order for the police to be able to avail themselves to serve the community when needed.
Chiquot described the attrition rate within the police force as “very bad” and said as a result a disservice was being perpetuated on the people of this country.
“You have these outstations around the island operating at their minimum. This is a problem. We must ensure, moving forward that the outstations are properly staffed and we must look to come out of the archaic system, the slavery system of policing. It is a modern day slavery operation. We cannot continue to run a police force with persons working the same hours as regular constables, and there is a disparity in the salary. This is inhumane. We must go back to the drawing board to restructure this police force so that it can serve its purpose,” Chiquot said.
He has an issue with Special Police Constables being hired to replace regular police officers who have retired or have left the police force. Chiquot decried that practise saying that although the Special Police Officers are hired at a cheaper rate compared to regular police officers, it is not fair to do so.
“You fill the force with about 300 plus SPCs but you had 100 plus regular police officers retiring. It gives the impression that we are hiring more people but we are hiring more people for less pay and doing the same duties but continue to have them at Grade Four.
“A police officer in Saint Lucia should not start policing at Grade Four, this is inhumane and a cheap way of employment and that must stop in the police force. It is something that must be discontinued. Every regular police officer who leaves the force must be filled in by a regular police officer who will come in and do the same thing. SPCs we appreciate, but there is a harsh reality that they should not be doing the same duties as regular constables, but are getting paid a grade less, and getting stuck in the same grade for years,” Chiquot said.
On the matter of communications between officers, patrols, outstations, etc., Chiquot was hopping mad, lamenting the uselessness in a government investment in radios for police officers.
“We have radios. Government invested in radios but they are not operational. This is sad. We have radios sitting at police stations for more than three months. I do not know what is missing. We have radios in vehicles and stations and all they are taking is dust. This is sad. Something is wrong. People must be held to answer. Those radios should have been operational today,” Chiquot said.
He added, “We are in a technological age. Crime is on the rise. Persons have WhatsApp groups while the police have no forms of communication. This is sad. We have criminals who have come together creating alliances to ensure they evade the services of the police but yet still the very technology that we need to ensure we block every hole for the criminal we sit by and take a lackadaisical approach to it,” Chiquot said.
The PWA president’s main theme that night was for improvements in all aspects of policework, which would bring up the standard of policing in the country and which, in the process, would engender the type of public participation in crime solving police all too often keep asking from the public.