Nation Awaits Results of Police Probe
How will the IMPACS report impact the Royal St Lucia Police Force?
Is there any truth in the rumours that were swirling around during the week that the report is likely to come down hard on the hierarchy of the Force, causing some heads to roll?
Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony will take to the airwaves Sunday night to address the nation on the recommendations of the team from the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) which was set by the government to investigate alleged extra judicial killings by members of the Police Force between 2010 and 2011.
The report has been with the government for some time but its contents have so far not been revealed, resulting in much wild speculation among the public about its contents.
Even members of the Police Force have been speculating, complaining the delay in announcing the recommendations of the IMPACS team was affecting the morale of the policemen and women.
Dr. Anthony’s address tomorrow night will find Commissioner of Police Vernon Francois, under whose watch the killings took place, on leave, but even the senior officer now in charge believes that a stronger and more efficient police force will emerge out of the IMPACS exercise.
“I believe that the report is going to make us a more resilient police force. I am looking forward to the guidelines and procedures coming out of the report,” deputy commissioner Errol Alexander said.
Alexander said that he had not seen the report nor had he read any part of it.
“I will not speculate about the report but I believe it will make the police department a more effective organization, a better organization,” he said.
Speculation about the possibility of massive dismissals from the Police Force have been widespread.
Police officers The VOICE spoke to about the report confirmed a high level of uncertainty and insecurity in the Force based on the rumours circulating.
“The morale within the police force is not as high as we would like because of the information that is being rumoured coming out of the IMPACS Report. It is having an adverse effect on the performance of some officers even from police officers who were never around at the time of the alleged killings,” Alexander said.
The VOICE has learned that even new recruits are expressing anxiety about the impact the report will likely have on the police force.
Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony and his Cabinet have been studying the report for over two months. The Prime Minister was originally scheduled to address the nation on that matter early last month, but he later announced that there were still outstanding issues to be resolved and rescheduled his address.
The IMPACS investigation has its origins in the 12 individuals who were shot and killed by police between 2010 and 2011 after the government and the police department launched what they described as ‘Operation Restore Confidence’, a campaign to combat rising violent crime.
The killings produced mixed reactions among the population. Some applauded the police actions, others remained silent, while there were still others who protested.
The killings, however, attracted the attention of the U.S. State Department calling them ‘unlawful fatal police shootings’. This led the United States taking action against the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force depriving it of American assistance including training. According to the U.S. members of the local police force had committed gross violations of human rights.
The sanctions imposed by the United States on the police force are still in effect today despite all, but one, coroner’s inquest into the killings having been completed, with verdicts justifying the use of force used by the officers.
Meanwhile even the hierarchy of the police force is encountering problems motivating the rank and file.
“It’s a difficult time for the hierarchy of the police force to continue motivating its members even those in the lower ranks,” Alexander said.