By Lorna Smithen-Bussue
CHARLESTOWN (JULY 19, 2016) “Police Officers should not discriminate, under any circumstances, against the public,” said Inspector Conrad Bertie of the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force of the Nevis Division.
This statement was made during a recent interview conducted in his office at the Charlestown Police Station, by local writer, Lorna Smithen- Bussue.
Amidst the international cry of police discrimination while effecting its duty of law enforcement, law abiding citizens of the country are also questioning the impartiality of police officers while executing their duties on a national level.
This situation has led Insp. Bertie to attempt to evaluate any disparities shown to the public by officers while enforcing the law
“I don’t think that Police under any circumstance should discriminate against the public. During our training process, we are put through ‘real situations’, where we are confronted and we are expected to deal with these situations in a certain way. We are supposed to demonstrate that level of professionalism, so that it does not shake us.”
In an effort to maintain law and order in society, police officers while working in close proximity with civilians, have been faced with volatile situations. Some of their decisions have had fatal consequences which have generated much discussions leading to the pervasive notion that the police cannot be trusted to protect the citizens of the country.
Insp. Bertie concurs that police men, like all human beings, make mistakes but there are procedures in place to deal with such situations. Civilians on the other hand, need to develop confidence in the investigative method and awareness of the way justice is meted out when deadly force is used by police officers.
“The first action that is taken is that the officer is called in by his immediate supervisor and spoken to. Based on that, if the officer is assigned to firearms, then that officer will be disarmed. Following that the officer is referred to counselling. Where an arrest is made, the officer is placed on suspension. Prior to that he is placed on ‘closed arrest’, that is, the officer is asked to remain on the premises and have little or no interaction with the public, in terms of performing duties.”
Foremost, continued Insp. Bertie, an investigation of the matter is done before the officer is dealt with.
He also spoke of a method used to help to diffuse tense situations which may arise between the public and officers and which is hoped to bring aboutmore amicable results.
“One of the things that we are encouraging now is to have more than one officer out there working at a time. So you work in pairs and if you have a situation there is a well-established officer out there, who knows the community that they deal with and who will point you in that direction.”
In an effort to enlighten those in society who feel that the immaturity of recruits to shoulder the responsibilities of law enforcement may account for some of the ‘fatal mistakes’ made while executing their duties, he said“Most of the times the 17 and 18 year old, when he joins the organization, is not placed out into the public to deal with matters. Most of the times he may be attached to an office where you don’t necessarily go out to deal with reports.”
Furthermore, he said“Sometimes persons are recruited, placed in a station but training has not yet started. They are taught certain practical things by Senior Officers until training starts.”
One of the roles of police officersis to pursue and bring to justice those who have breached the law. However, members of society have voiced beliefs that appear to support those who aretheperpetrators of crime. In that context Insp. Bertie says“One of the things I’ve come to realize is that people seem to think that it is 99 percent of the society that’s against the police, which to my mind is totally false. There might be one percent out there that is very loud against the police because they want to continue to engage in wrong doing. Most of the times when we go out, people will say you tell people things that are said to you. You’ll say give me a real situation and they can’t point to one. Here is where they are latching on to something that other people say but they do not have any real experience of it.”
Police officers in upholding the laws are expected to do so firmly and without fear or favour. This can be done most effectively in a cordial social environment. Hence the police have developed some strategies to cultivate a more trusting relationship in the society.
“We at the division, have developed house to house greetings in different communities to let you know that we are here trying to rebuild the relationship that once existed then we would outline some of our plans and programmes as they relate to the force.”
Additionally, he said “every quarter, we have gone out and be a part of a church service. That we have found, have worked very well for us because we have once again started to receive information from the public.”
Justifiably, police officers are expected to perform their duties with integrity and impartiality. However, Nationals need to embrace the fact that they too are accountable for national as well as personal safety especially in the atmosphere of cultural festivity.
“Reach out to the police, anything that looks unusual to you, reach out. If you don’t get an immediate response from whom you might have spoken, touch base with someone bigger than them” said Insp. Bertie.