THE executive of the Police Welfare Association (PWA) has pledged their solidarity to the officers of the Royal St. Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) in light of recent proceedings related to the IMPACS case and the Office of the DPP.
Last week Wednesday, three police officers were taken in for questioning over the roles they allegedly played in the Operation Restore Confidence (ORC), which resulted in 12 alleged extra-judicial police killings between 2010 and 2011.
This action came as part of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) moved to bring officers implicated in the IMPACS report on ORC to justice.
At a press conference on Tuesday morning, PWA President, Travis Chicot, and Public Relations Officer, Zachary Hippolyte, addressed the matter, as well as a number of issues currently being faced by officers.
Hippolyte said the PWA is concerned for its members; however, they will continue to provide them with support as best as they can, including legal assistance.
“The position is that once our members have found themselves before the law, the PWA will continue to provide them with legal assistance as best as we can,” Hippolyte said. “We might not be able to pay the entire fee but I can assure you that we are making headway as it relates to assisting them in whatever ways possible at this moment.”
Contrary to claims made last week by Minister for Justice, Hermangild Francis, the PWA executive said the officers are still working tirelessly to undertake their tasks. Chicot said police officers are working harder than ever due to depleting numbers of officers and the inability to replace them.
He said: “I wouldn’t say the police are not working — the police are working. The numbers are stretched but I think it is a call now for us to beef up the recruitment to fill in the numbers that have gone out of this service. So the police officers are working.”
Chicot continued: “If they were not working, I could assure you that the public would have been in the media right now.”
Hippolyte said work is being carried out by officers despite the glare of the IMPACS report as well as the numerous issues they face daily, including lack of resources and dilapidated facilities.
He said: “Our members continue to work. They come to work, they are heartbroken, there is uncertainty about their future, they believe they are being overlooked for promotions, they still have to go home to their kids and be fathers, police officers, and they still have to provide service to you when they come to the station. It’s not an easy situation for them.”
Hippolyte said it is disheartening to hear such statements, especially as the thousands that the police help sufficiently and timely every single week remain silent about the good works of the police force.
He said: “ The sad thing about human nature is that when something goes bad, the voice is raised but people come to the Rodney Bay Police Station and other stations on a daily basis, they get proper service and don’t go to the media and say, ‘Hey, guess what? I went to the police station and made a report when my vehicle was stolen and it was retrieved in about an hour.’ That does not happen.”
He continued: “So most of the time, what you guys hear is the bad. But I’m telling you there’s a lot of good. Despite the conditions, despite IMPACS, despite all what we’re going through, I see police officers on a daily basis doing remarkable things for citizens and they walk away saying, ‘Man, you guys are just awesome!’”
Other issues discussed included officers having to cover their own medical expenses.
With respect to a second ORC, Chicot echoed the words of the Justice Minister, saying restoring confidence should be an everyday occurrence as opposed to sporadic operations.
He said the same mindset should apply when dealing with both regular citizens and hardened criminals.
“The police at present must spare no opportunity for any form of rascality in this country,” said Chicot. “The RSLPF must and will continue to deal with those persons who believe that they can hold the country at ransom for their own personal gain.
“The RSLPF must continue to assure the people of St. Lucia that come what may, those persons who continuously break the law will be a target of the RSLPF.”
To which Hippolyte added: “I believe it’s a matter of increasing the confidence. I don’t think about restoring it — there is confidence in our police.”