By Lesroy W. Williams
(Basseterre, St. Kitts)—The motto of The Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force is, “To serve and protect.”
It is more than a motto in the view of the public voice of the force.
According to Inspector Cromwell Henry, Public Relations Officer for the St. Kitts and Nevis Police Force, the alarming increase in crime and violence in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis requires that the police be more vigilant and professional in their approach to tackling crime. Even with the meager resources that the police have to work with, Inspector Henry said that police officers are supposed to be beyond reproach in their conduct on duty and off duty.
In his view, a police officer is on duty 24 hours a day.
The High Command of the police force has been trying to improve the relationship with the department and the community by hosting town hall meetings in several communities throughout the island.
Confidentiality and the building of trust have been hallmarks of these meetings.
A recent incident threatens to undo some of what has been gained.
A police report stated that on Friday May 30, No. 664 Constable Germin Gaskin of Upper Shaw Avenue and Anthony Francis of River Park, Nevis, were arrested for armed robbery.
On May 29, just after midnight, a Charlestown business man was held up at gun point outside his home at Belle Vue in the vicinity of Caribbean Cove, Nevis. He was robbed of his personal belongings, including a sum of money.
The two men are remanded at Her Majesty’s Prison and are expected to make a court appearance shortly. In the meanwhile, Constable Gaskin has been suspended from active duty pending the determination of the charge.
The firearm used in the robbery was that of Constable Gaskin.
“The public expects the police force to be held to a higher standard than the ordinary person and as such we do not expect any police officers to be involved in any kind of criminal activity,” Inspector Henry said.
“Persons might say, ‘You caught one but how many more are there?’” he said.
However, Cromwell Henry said that police officers caught committing crimes will not be given any special treatment but will face the full brunt of the law.
“There was no special treatment for him [Constable Gaskin]. He was suspended from duty the very same day he was arrested,” Henry said.
It is important that the public trust the police, Inspector Henry said. When police officers are in breach of public trust and confidentiality, it hampers the solving of crime, he said.
“Out of the community meetings that we had, the issue of confidentiality was raised a lot. The Commissioner has said that he takes the issue of confidentiality seriously and he is considering lobbying the authorities to have a breach of confidentiality in the police force to be a criminal offence,” Inspector Henry said. “Presently it is only a disciplinary measure if a police officer is in breach of confidentiality.”
Inspector Henry reinforced the point that the actions of rogue cops would not be tolerated in the police force because it undermines public trust and confidence in the police.