We take this opportunity to applaud the members of the Babonneau Police Station for their Tuesday morning exercise aimed at building positive relations with residents within the community they work in.
The officers, positioned near the Ti Morne gap in Union, distributed parcels of rice, sugar, flour and ground provisions to motorists.
Imagine you’re heading to your home in Babonneau, Balata or anywhere in that area via the Allan Bousquet Highway. You have just passed the roundabout near the Dame Pearlette Primary School. A line of vehicles is in front you. You inched your way up only to realise that the cause of the slow-moving traffic is the result of police officers conducting traffic checks near the T-Morne gap.
Knowing that your vehicle insurance is unpaid, and your license is expired, you begin to curse your bad luck. You are trapped in that line of vehicles and can’t turn back to seek another route to your home.
As your vehicle gets closer to the officers, you pray that the driver behind you is checked and not you. Your prayers are not answered as an officer waves you forward and holds up his hand for you to stop. With a sinking heart you wait for the inevitable.
“Excuse me sir,” the officer says. “I am police officer………. attached to the Babonneau Police Station. In the spirit of Independence and to improve positive relations between the police and the community, we, members of the Babonneau Police Station, present you with this token of our appreciation.”
You are speechless behind the wheel of your vehicle. You stare at the police officer as he/she hands you a portion of rice, sugar, flour or green bananas. You blink, still unable to fathom what you have just heard. Your mind is in a state of confusion. In shock, you reach for the items being handed to you. You watch as the officer steps backward and waves you forward. Disbelievingly, you move your vehicle forward. You are now clear to continue your journey. Suddenly a smile breaks all over your face.
“Wow!” is all you could say as you examine the items which were given to you.
The above is a fair representation of what we were told a driver or two experienced that Tuesday morning.
Tuesday’s exercise by officers attached to the Babonneau Police Station was not to arrest or ticket anyone. The exercise was unique, an approach not associated with police officers’ efforts of crime prevention but rather at building relationships of trust with and within the community in which they are in.
We also applaud the persons who provided the station with the supplies. We firmly believe that such initiatives, which we call nonenforcement activities by police, could only lead to better interaction between the police and residents of the community.
Another great idea we believe that can improve police/community relations, is the scheduling of regular forums where residents of the community can interact with the police.
As noted elsewhere, exemplary community policing requires actively building positive relationships with members of the community. It is vital that the community sees law enforcement officers as allies and not just as enforcers.
While Tuesday’s exercise will, we believe, go some way in cultivating for the better, the relationship between the police and the community, it also gives legitimacy to the police in their efforts at building trust with the community.
Police now need to move their efforts at community/police relationship building to the hot spot neighbourhoods which are areas with a high rate of investigative and enforcement involvement, and discuss issues, concerns, and generally get to know residents in these areas.
Any opportunity police get to interact and engage residents in the community in a nonenforcement capacity should be taken.
These engagements, which should also involve high-ranking police officers, send a message to the community that the police force and its officers are committed to working with residents to improve conditions for the whole community.
The Royal Saint Lucia Police Force should take this initiative a step further by showing the entire country, on its Facebook page, all that it is doing, or has done, to improve its standing within the society, because, at the end of the day, it must show that it is an effective law enforcement entity and one such way of doing that is through mutual trust and cooperation with the various communities it has a presence in.
We call on the police hierarchy to encourage the efforts of the police stations in the various communities to build and continue interacting and engaging with residents, as we believe that such initiatives will go a long way towards arresting the crime wave that is the preoccupation of almost all of society.