President of the Saint Lucia Police Welfare Association (PWA) Camron Laure, Wednesday, called for a sexual harassment policy for the police force, telling reporters “it is time that women feel safe in the work environment.”
“We will be pushing that agenda here at this conference,” Laure told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting with police welfare associations across the region, adding that he had spoken to a few of his colleagues on the matter.
“I’m hoping that… coming out of it, at least we would have some kind of draft policy for our welfare association to present to our commissioner,” Laure said.
The welfare of police officers in the English-speaking Caribbean was high on the agenda of the Caribbean Federation of Police Welfare Associations (CFPWA) during its annual general meeting.
Noting the importance of collaboration and communication in identifying and addressing issues impacting the welfare of police officers, Laure said “this may involve adjusting policies and procedures to better support officers, improving working conditions, increasing funding for healthcare and dare I stress mental health resources.”
“We must continue capacity building, we must continue to encourage education of our police officers, we must continue to involve all stakeholders including officers themselves, community leaders and government officials,” Laure said at the meeting of the CFPWA, whilst acknowledging that the challenges as well as successes within each Caribbean country are similar in nature.
Laure also spoke to reporters about his expectations for the meeting, and according to him, “the Caribbean Federation has moved leaps and bounds given where we started… (It) was a bit difficult at first but we have picked up and we’re moving steadily. A lot of representation has been made in various Caribbean countries by the Federation.”
He also noted that the gathering was symbolic of the combined efforts of police corporations to ensure adequate salaries, benefits and support for police officers.
Psychosocial support will also be brought to the fore, Laure told reporters before the meeting began.
He recalled what happened to “an ex-fire officer (who) seemed to have fallen victim to that (lack of psychosocial support) … That has touched us as a welfare association, as a sister organization to the fire officers, and I have reached out to them. I have indicated how important it is for us to have that addressed across the board in all the protective services. That too is going to form part of the discussions.”
“I have also had informal discussions with some of the colleagues here and I’m sure it is going to be on the front burner,” he said.
Echoing a statement by Horace Chang, Minister for National Security in Jamaica, Laure noted that “the welfare of police personnel in the Caribbean is crucial to the quality of service we extend to Caribbean people and that quality of service is critical to the development of all societies.”
According to him, “This ties perfectly with our theme: ‘Building and sustaining police officers’ welfare in the Caribbean for better societies across the region.’”
Sean McCall, Vice President of the CFPWA, and Sergeant of Police in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) also spoke about challenges facing police welfare organizations across the region:
“Everybody feels that police (officers) do not get paid enough; that’s one of the key issues. We do a dangerous job. No matter how you look at it, you say goodbye to your families in the morning and you have no clue if you’re going to come back in one piece. The reality is the police are overworked and underpaid,” McCall said, adding, “not only that, police are working more than 40 hours per week; that is unheard of in 2023 and our commissioners have to sit down with us and address these things.”
“For instance, what if an officer is on the job 12, 13, 14 hours doing more than 40 hours a week and he has an error of judgement? Will the commissioner take that responsibility or would he leave that officer at the mercies of the court? These are the things that we are advocating for: better working conditions; let’s start with improving the circumstances of police officers,” he said.
According to him, the CFPWA has a keen interest in getting an insurance policy for police officers across the region.
“I think that police officers should be covered in terms of accidents on the job, death (and) medicals. A lot of people come into the job (at) 17/18 years old, leave (at) 60 and leave with all kinds of impediments. We want proper insurance coverage for our officers around the region and we’ll be satisfied if some of these issues could be addressed,” he said.
As for what the CFPWA hopes to achieve with this meeting, McCall said “one of the things we intend to do is get on a fast track of meeting with all the commissioners around the Caribbean. Presently they are meeting in Trinidad—they are having their commissioners conference, and sadly while they are in Trinidad some of their associations are not represented here in Saint Lucia because of the lack of funding. That does not make sense.
If the government could fund the commissioners they could fund the welfare association. We want to be treated with the same level of respect … some commissioners see us as antagonistic, maybe sometimes in negotiations you have to be that way, but it’s all for the betterment of police officers in the region.”
The three-day event which was held at Bel Jou Hotel in La Pansee commenced on Wednesday and ended yesterday.