The Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) at its 2021 year-end press conference revealed that it is still dealing with a number of challenges. However, Commissioner Milton Desir vowed that the RSLPF will do all in its power to ensure that the country is kept safe.
Desir admitted that 2021 has been a “long year” for the RSLPF, saying “this year we have recorded the most homicides—over 70, (and) in as much as we planned (and) strategized so that we’ll keep it down, there were other prevailing factors that would not allow us to see our plans go the way (we) expected.”
Desir stated that the Major Crime Unit has been working assiduously to resolve the issues that continue to plague the department, and noted however that it is not always an easy task.
“When persons walk (into) someone’s home and shoots somebody who’s probably (asleep) or who’s at home just watching television, these are the circumstances which may lead to increases in the crime numbers. I must say that we had a very tough year. The police, especially the Major Crime Unit, were always there investigating those homicides. They’ve spent sleepless nights out there trying to resolve some of the crimes,” Desir said.
While eyewitnesses play an important role in solving crime, he believes that some eyewitnesses choose not to come forward for various reasons, including a fear of being discovered. Desir believes Saint Lucia’s Evidence Act should be revised as a result.
“There is that fear factor and I believe there would need to be some change in legislation, especially to the Evidence Act, because in as much as one would give a statement to the police, there’s what we call disclosure; you have to disclose a file to the accused person or his lawyer then at that point you would know who gave a statement (and) who said what and so on. Unless there’s a change in that aspect then I think it would remain the same,” the Police Commissioner stated.
The surge in violence has caused the RSLPF to come up with different ways to combat crime and according to Desir, the Force is making headway in that regard.
“After the last set of shootings we went into Vieux Fort and that was one of the things that I identified was needed; the constant patrol, so you have the bicycles passing around the communities, finding out whether there are any issues and so on. Actually, we recruited 13 additional persons to be on bicycles and it would extend to Rodney Bay and most likely Soufriere,” he explained.
“I think it’s about two months now (since) we rolled out operation Blue Envelope. It started with the highway patrols, stop-searches, traffic checks and so on. The second phase of it is really targeting persons during the stop-searches (because) you would have gathered evidence, information or intel, so the searches are being done,” Desir added.
The RSLPF has solved 20 homicides this year.
Desir said that there has been a dramatic increase in stealing and robberies this year, something the Force has been battling for a while. According to him, because these things occur frequently, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) created a new department called the Robbery Squad.
“We have put resources into play to deal with these matters (and) we have seen some successes, but again with the frequency of these matters it’s become a challenge to get to the end of every matter, but we are trying our best to see how we can bring these matters to closure,” he explained.
The Police Commissioner also spoke about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has impacted the Force. The RSLPF recently lost three officers to COVID-19 and Desir is urging all unvaccinated officers to “do the right thing” and get vaccinated immediately.
“We have a good bit of police officers who are fully vaccinated like myself, most of our executive and (our) senior officers. We still have persons who are not vaccinated but the encouragement is there. Our press office (has) organized for some medical persons, (the) Ministry of Health, to speak to the officers (and to), give them not just the pros (but) the cons of vaccination (also and) persons would make an informed decision as to whether they would take the vaccine or not,” he said.
Desir said that the RSLPF will not make vaccination mandatory “and unless the policy dictates that there is mandatory vaccination on island, we the police cannot say that.”
However, he made it clear that in some cases vaccination is certainly not optional.
“There are certain things that have to be done and persons need to be vaccinated, for example training, and I know that was an issue some time aback. (It was) a basic SSU course. It’s not that we are discriminating but the course required that persons be in close proximity—the need for holding and all these things, so that’s why we said for that particular course you needed to be vaccinated,” Desir explained.
The Police Commissioner called on unvaccinated members of the police force to get vaccinated saying that as frontliners vaccination is something that is necessary.
“We’re supposed to have a vaccination policy and in developing it the Welfare Association will be involved. We’ll involve every sector of the police in developing a policy that we believe would work for everybody, so it’s not like from the Commissioner’s office to say every person has to be vaccinated by so and so date. It is a policy that we all would be participating in developing so that everybody would benefit from it,” he added.
This past year we all admit has been a most terrible year in modern history, for St. Lucia, health in particular and in crime specifically. I hope that the health factor will one day be solved, but the annoying reality of crime requires an immediate attention, or else if allowed to drag, will create a situation as we see in Haiti. There are certain elements that must be dealt with, with Military precision and must be captured, other wise just let the inmates run the asylum. The political Cabinet must be shuffled; some things there must be shaken, until then, we are just wasting time. The sliding slope to chaos is near, the will to avoid falling is weak, I shudder to even think of the dire consequences, but there is a good God I truest and obey.