PWA President Rallies ‘Cops’, Public
PRESIDENT of the Police Welfare Association (PWA), Camron Laure, says that “now more than ever” the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) needs to be a more united unit.
Speaking to The VOICE yesterday in the wake of the recent IMPACS report that points an accusatory finger at the police force, Laure said the police force needs all the support it can get at this crucial time.
“Now more than ever the police force has to stand together,” Laure said. “We have to be each other’s keeper. For the persons who might be implicated – and I don’t want to speak too much about the report itself – this is a time when they need as much support as possible from the general membership of the police force.”
Laure also called on the public to continue giving the police the support they have been giving in their crime fighting and community-based activities. He said police officers remained committed “to serve and protect within the confines of the law.”
“This is what we’ve been employed to do and this is what we’ll continue to do,” Laure said. “The public should have no fear that the police will not do what they’re supposed to do within the confines of the law.”
Laure said he has since met with police officers who might be implicated and plans to meet with them again. They are concerned, he said, but they are relatively calm. Whilst they are concerned, Laure said they are confident that they acted within the boundaries of the law and that they have done nothing unlawful. Nevertheless, he said the matter goes deeper than the force itself.
“So with that part, they’re okay. The only little concern – which is not only theirs but the general concern of the general membership – is the backlash and how the public will now view the police. We were making so much progress with the public embracing us. So we’re concerned about how that is going to affect the progress in terms of our community policing,” Laure explained.
He continued: “So in that vein, we’re also calling on the members of the public – law abiding citizens and everybody – to stand up with the police, to support the police, to stand in solidarity and give as much support to the police as possible. Right now is the time that the police needs the support of every single person there is. Not just the persons who might be implicated in the report but each and every police officer because when you walk as a police officer, you don’t represent yourself – you represent the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force.”
Laure said the police force has many outstanding concerns. While the damning IMPACS report referenced by Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony in last Sunday’s address to the nation might be a new headache for the police force, Laure said previous matters also need to be addressed.
“We have a lot of concerns. While (IMPACS) the report is there, we also have concerns with manpower. Look at our attrition rate over the last few years. Look at the various police stations and the number of persons who man those police stations as opposed to the number of persons in the community. All these things have to be looked at. So now, I think, is an opportune time – with everything that is going on – to address these issues,” Laure explained.
Last Sunday evening, the Prime Minister announced government’s intention to increase the institutional capacity of the police force by one Assistant Commissioner of Police, five funded Sergeants and ten funded Corporals. The Prime Minister also pledged to include the appointment of Special Prosecutors in this year’s Estimates of Expenditure should the Director of Public Prosecutions decide to prosecute any individual/s implicated in the IMPACS probe. Laure said the Prime Minister failed to address the perennial attrition problem that plagues the police force, which accounts for an average 26 police officers leaving the police force annually.
“He never mentioned additional police officers. He spoke of training for the police. The additional prosecutors he mentioned do not do anything in terms of manning the populace, really. It is the police officers who are at the police stations. So these are our concerns,” Laure said.
Laure is urging police officers “to continue to be professional in the way they carry out their duties”, adding that “the police have always done what they are employed to do.” He said police officers have “always gone out and acted as much as possible lawfully.” The police, he said, will continue their community policing initiatives to ensure that the public regains trust in the police.
News of the IMPACS came at a time when the island has yet to record a single homicide for the year. While the police force has been receiving praise from the public for this and other successes, Laure said police officers are now being forced to adapt to the criticisms now being levelled at their organization.
“The morale is low,” Laure lamented. “I’m receiving calls left, right and centre. It is a situation (that comes) at a time when we have to do a lot of coming together (and) mending whatever differences we have as police officers.”
Laure said he was unaware of the terms of reference of the IMPACS report and is currently in the process of finding that out. He said that while the IMPACS report cannot be made public for stated reasons, its terms of reference should.
“Up to this day, I’m not sure whether it was a police criminal investigation where you’re looking for evidence in an effort to prosecute or prefer charges or so on,” Laure said.