Too Many Unanswered Questions

Crime in the city is still rampant, as evidenced by a robbery over the weekend at the Castries branch of KFC. Kudos to the Special Services Unit of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) for quickly apprehending the perpetrators in a frightening event that has left some staff members from that establishment traumatized.

Since the incident, various conversations have sprung up pertaining to the manner in which the suspect was caught. With temperatures still high since the shooting death of a student (Arnold Joseph) by police, many have questioned the manner in which one of the suspects was shot, and later captured by the police.

For what it’s worth, this isn’t the first time this topic has come up in the aftermath of incidents of this nature. In keeping with the usual trend, most who spoke out felt there was need for the police to make use of non-lethal means to apprehend suspects, rubber bullets for example. While some laid this on the table as a suitable alternative, others questioned the effectiveness of rubber bullets or other non-lethal means claiming that going that route would put the lives of the officers themselves in danger, as the criminals would now be more heavily armed than the police.

In any event, the man who was shot was transported to hospital and was reportedly in stable condition after the incident. Investigations are continuing.

Meanwhile, police use of force continues to be a hot topic locally and internationally. Here in Saint Lucia, with scarcely any information coming from police in the shooting death of 17-year-old Arnold Joseph, who was laid to rest on Saturday June 22, it is worth questioning how differently the May 22 interception of the student and the two other men by the police could have gone had the police opted to use non-lethal means. As a result of the incident, a brotherly bond was broken, and more questions have come up than there are answers, or anyone willing to answer them.

In light of the beloved student finally being laid to rest, the question must be asked: What would have been the optimal way local police could have handled the disastrous situation in the aftermath?

First and foremost, the police themselves should have called a press conference to state the facts as they knew it, and to answer questions… even within the limits that would exist considering the matter would be under investigation. At this engagement, they could have promised to initiate prompt investigation into the circumstances leading to the death of the student (and actually done so afterward), sympathized publicly with the family, and vowed to work along with the requisite authorities in investigating the matter.

After that, the ideal course of action would have been to suspend the officers involved in the incident pending the results of the investigation.

These steps would have at least been the minimum, and would have minimized the questions now being asked, and the sort of public scrutiny the police are under, and not for the first time.

Locally and internationally, where police officers are concerned, there sometimes seems to be the inclination of various units to protect members, never mind the circumstances. With many police shootings in places like the United States, particularly those involving people of African descent, it would seem that concerted effort is made to paint the situation in the favour of police officers… they were either scared, just doing their job, defending themselves, or dealing with uncooperative or provocative  suspects. On some occasions, this may well be the case, but it is hard to side with anyone, over anything that seems shrouded in secrecy.

The bottom line is that we need the police. People want to be able to trust the police and know that someone will come to their aid in times of need.  No one wants to believe that all we have is trigger happy cops, when there is evidence that demonstrates the contrary. There are many officers who go above and beyond the call of duty, whose dream was always to be a police officer to protect and serve. What we need now is accountability, proper communication, and a smooth path to justice, that will be in the best interest for not only the local populace, but the police themselves.

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