THE presence of City Police Officers (CPOs) on the streets is making a difference in maintenance of law and order in the capital after just a few `weeks but their role is expected to be further enhanced in the weeks ahead.
Decked in their starched white polo shirts and dark tunics the officers of the Castries Constabulary have added muscle to law enforcement, winning them appreciation and praise from a number of citizens.
This past Tuesday The VOICE spoke to Jason Hullingseed, Press and Communications Manager in the Office of the Mayor Peterson Francis, in an exclusive interview about the work of the Castries Constituency Council since the recruitment of the 24 City Police Officers and the way forward.
VOICE: Recently the CCC swore in 24 CPO’s to help with law and order in the capital. Is this the largest number of CPOs the Council has ever employed ?
Hullingseed: I cannot speak as to whether it is the largest force we have had, but it is a great improvement on what stood before. We had a few city officers, before the recruitment. There were actually 13 on staff and over the years the number has dwindled because persons obviously were looking for new opportunities and would have resigned their positions. The City constabulary was somewhat dormant. With the vision of the Mayor, who is trying to revamp that department, we recruited 24 persons. The plan is to have a complement of 50 city officers. The next batch will be recruited in the first quarter of 2017; the recruiting process will start in February.
VOICE: Like the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force do you have ranks as well?
Hullingseed: Yes, we do. Currently we have an acting head constable. We are in the process of advertising for a Chief of City Police and from then on we will be doing some promotions.
VOICE: At present you have persons assigned on foot, any plans to make the new officers mobile?
Hullingseed: Actually I have drafted a few letters to the local dealerships. We are in the process; we are also looking at bicycles and small carts so the officers can maneuver in the narrow roads and back roads of the city. For the time being we are looking at one vehicle, two carts and some bicycles.
VOICE: How do you respond to crime and vehicular accidents within the city?
Hullingseed: The cooperation and relationship with the RSLPF continues, if anything happens within the city we are usually the first to be on the scene. For instance there was a shooting recently in Conway and we were the first on the scene. We were able to protect the evidence, then the police came in and carried out their investigations. We work hand in hand with them. Whatever it is we are called out, if it is a situation we cannot handle then the police comes in.
VOICE: At the end of the day, does your department interview suspects/ witnesses and do your officers write crime reports?
Hullingseed: Yes we do write reports; it is based on the nature of the case. Usually when someone comes in we do have a holding cell within the city constabulary. We place that person in the holding cell, do our reports. Afterwards we transfer them to the Criminal Investigation Department of the RSLPF.
VOICE: What’s it like in terms of responding to calls from a CPO for backup?
Hullingseed: We have a pretty good radio system. If you realise most of our officers carry a radio. If something is happening on Jeremie Street someone could radio another officer in other parts of the city for backup.
VOICE: Do your officers monitor any suspicious activity of ongoing crimes?
Hollinseed: Yes we do. We do get tips; persons usually give the CPOs the heads up about the illegal activities taking place in the city. Earlier this week we were involved in an operation where we recovered cocaine at Barnard Hill. That was done jointly with the RSLPF. Remember the City Police Officers patrol the streets 24 hours a day.
VOICE: Do the CPOs visit open businesses such as banks, the arcade and castries market, department stores, service stations and other types of establishments and have a rapport with the owners?
Hullingseed: Yes, they do. I can recall certain concerns mentioned by store owners. Our men work on schedules. They are deployed strategically around the city. For the cruise ships we have persons stationed along the John Compton Highway and others stationed along Jn Baptiste Street just in case someone decides to run down that route, and at various corners around the city.
Currently we have a training officer on board in the person of Augustin Samson, a former Inspector of the RSLPF. Samson is the one responsible for detailing and strategizing in the interim. He will be the one training the City Police Officers for the next three months.
VOICE: Will the CCC assign a CPO to conduct undercover narcotics investigation or patrol the schools areas to monitor criminal activities and also to maintain a rapport with the schools officials within the city?
Hullingseed: Yes that is being done. Remember too it is part of a bigger problem so it cannot just be the involvement of the City Police Officers, the RSLPF need to be involved, the community relations branch of the RSLPF needs to come into play and also various institutions of government. Whilst we patrol the schools and confiscate stuff from students we do have stops and search; it is part of a bigger problem which needs to be dealt with by a cross section of government institutions.
VOICE: Have the CPOs made any difference in the maintenance of law and order?
Hullingseed: Whilst I wish not to answer that question, I would wish for someone else to speak to it. We cannot always blow our own trumpets, but needless to say there is a big difference. You see them all over the city; they are quite visible wearing their uniforms. Persons have commended the Mayor and Council for taking that bold approach with reinventing the wheel where the city police officers are concerned. Certain situations could escalate in the city if there were not City Police Officers, so having them does make a big difference and it does impact greatly.
VOICE: In the last month was there a dent – meaning arrests made. How many and which was the most common offence?
Hullingseed: There has been arrests made, we had persons arrested for assaults, threating words, urinating and disregarding city laws. We have had seven arrests. On Monday we had one male arrested; we had him in the holding cell for being mischievous around the city where he was hassling the visitors from the cruise ship. It is making a dent.
VOICE: Final question. Your officers were involved in confiscating 2500 grams of cocaine earlier in the week with members of the RSLPF. Will the CPOs be provided with equipment like firearms, handcuffs etc. to carry out their duties?
Hullingseed: Yes they will. We have actually confirmed 29 firearms, and in addition we have also ordered bullet proof vests, handcuffs, and police batons. Soon after the training members of the public will see the city police officers fully equiped. In addition we are looking to upgrade the uniforms. Also members of the public will see the launch of the city police department in March as part of the 50th anniversary of the Castries Constituency Council.
VOICE: Your final words.
Hullingseed: I will wish for persons to continue to support not just the City Police Officers, but the work of Mayor Peterson Francis. We have a lot of plans in place. Persons will now see a change and will see a difference in the city as we continue to push the agenda of development.