Police Commissioner Returns To Post.
POLICE Commissioner Vernon Francois, is expected to return to his desk next Monday after more than two months on vacation.
It will be his first time back on the job since Prime Minister Kenny Anthony’s dramatic March 8 radio and television address in which he announced some of the findings of the investigation into extra judicial killings in the police force, undertaken by a team from the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and security (IMPACS).
The report made several serious allegations about police officers—with particular emphasis on the top officers–prompting Prime Minister Anthony’s statement that any charges that would arise from the report will be laid by the Director of Public Prosecution. To date, more than six weeks afterwards there have been no charges laid against anyone.
The report implicated Francois for “willful blindness” during the period during which “12 potentially unlawful fatal police shootings” took place.
Sources close to the Police Force told THE VOICE yesterday that Francois was expected to resume duties following his leave. However, the Commissioner would be returning to a somewhat changed environment at the helm of the Force to what it was when he went on vacation.
THE VOICE understands that Assistant Commissioner of Police for Crime Frances Henry has been given the responsibility for territorial policing, while the Crime portfolio has been taken over by ACP Milton Desir, who was previously in charge of the Marine department.
Desir who was guest on Timothy Poleon’s Hot Button Issue on Choice TV last week is believed to have found himself in hot water with his superiors over some of this remarks during the programme. THE VOICE understands that his appearance on the show was not sanctioned by his superiors, although it was not clear whether he had sought their approval.
According to well-placed sources within the police department Desir was spoken to about his television appearance and about some of the responses he gave to questions asked by the talk show’s host.
One source said that Desir will not be speaking to reporters at this juncture, although it was not clear whether a gag order had been placed on him.
Efforts by this reporter to engage Desir in an interview following his debut television appearance as ACP responsible for crime were unsuccessful.
Desir’s elevation to the position of ACP (Crime) may well be in keeping with Prime Minister Anthony’s announcement last month that government will augment the institutional capacity of the Police Force by increasing the number of Assistant Commissioners by one.
A number of other actions were announced by Anthony in early March. Firstly, the Prime Minister said that the government had decided that the training of police recruits will henceforth include a module in Human Rights Law and all current police officers will be required, in rotation, to attend training to sensitize them to the Human Rights provisions of our Constitution.
Secondly, in order to strengthen the pool of Gazetted Officers, the government, in consultation with the Police Force and partners, would organize and conduct an accelerated training programme for potential promotion to the ranks of Gazetted Officers. Admission to this programme would be done on a competitive basis.
Additionally, the institutional capacity of the Police Force would be augmented by increasing the Assistant Commissioner positions by one, increasing the number of funded sergeant positions by five and the number of funded corporal positions by ten.
The government would also make provision in this year’s Estimates of Expenditure for the appointment of Special Prosecutors to assist in the prosecution of any cases should the Director of Prosecutions so decide to prosecute, Anthony said.
A joint committee under Anthony’s chairmanship, had been appointed by the Cabinet to oversee the implementation of the report of the investigators. The Committee will include representatives of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force and civilians.
The Prime Minister had also announced that there would be personnel adjustments within the Police Force “as we seek to effectively manage this transition and ensure optimal functioning…”