POLICE Commissioner Vernon Francois has called for the setting up of an independent body to investigate matters that involve police actions against civilians.
Francois admitted to making such a call before, however, this time around he is adamant and is calling on government to move quickly in setting up this body.
The Commissioner, who spoke to The VOICE yesterday noted that the current situation cannot and should no longer remain as is.
“It does not matter how senior a team you put together to investigate a matter, or how fair and balanced that investigative team may be in compiling a report on a matter involving the police and a civilian, the perception out there is that since police are investigating police the report would be unfair, and having a bias in favour of the police,” Francois said.
He was at the time responding to a question from The VOICE concerning the way forward for the Police Force following Monday’s shooting incident in Bruceville, Vieux Fort where a mentally ill man was fatally shot by police.
Christopher Severin, said to be in his mid-twenties, was shot by police who were physically trying to restrain him. Reports on the matter are contradictory with police giving but the barest details. Family members on the other hand have been speaking out claiming, among other things that the cutlass Severin was armed with when police arrived on the scene was not in his possession when the struggle ensued between him and the lawmen which resulted in him being shot.
They further claimed that he was shot in the back while running away from the police. Police have yet to substantiate that although there’s another report claiming that Severin was shot in the buttocks.
Investigations into that affair are being handled by the police who on completion will forward their findings to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution for further action.
Questions are also being raised about the attention, or lack thereof given to Severin at the time he was brought to St. Jude’s Hospital.
Another twist to the tale is that Severin was placed in a room on arrival and although he was attended to, his injuries were deemed not serious. He was left alone, unattended for several hoursafter being 3:00 p.m. and dying about eight hours later.
The hospital’s medical director, Carlen Radix when contacted could not speak to the issue being in a meeting at the time but promised to get in touch with this reporter later. She had not so at press time
Meanwhile the President of the Police Welfare Association, Cameron Laure noted that in situations where a mentally ill person needs to be subdued, the Police Force should not be the organization called for such a task.
“You are dealing with an illness. How could you call the police who are not trained to deal with such an illness? Persons who deal with such illnesses should be the ones called,” Laure said.
He suggested that government quickly put in place teams comprising people who are trained in this illness and in how to handle mentally challenged persons when they need to be restrained. Such teams, he said, could be placed at strategic points in the country to enable them to respond quickly when needed.
“Police officers should stay away from situations like these,” Laure added.