Dear readers, in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Public Relations and Complaints Office, this article seeks to lay out some of the roles and functions of the department.
On January 4, 1999, the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVGPF) under the leadership of the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Osborne Quow made a strategic decision to establish a public relations and complaints office (PR&C) within the constabulary, with a vision to “seek to establish an environment conducive to the attainment of better relationship with our public through a more service-oriented police force”.
The mission of the PR&C is “to promote a creative and responsive environment to facilitate citizens and members of RSVGPF to cooperate thereby, providing an atmosphere of continuous interaction and to ensure the delivery of quality service to all”.
Among the main functions of the department are as follows:
- To evaluate public opinion and attitude with respect to the policies, methods and personnel in the police force
- To advise the Commissioner of Police on matters relating to public relations, departmental policies, procedures and activities
- Plan and execute informational programs designed to keep the public informed about activities in the police force
- Stimulate initiatives which would influence public support
- Monitor the conduct of police officers with a view to resolving issues between the police and the public; and instituted disciplinary or other proceedings against if allegations are supported by evidence.
What is the purpose of the Complaints Office?
The Complaints Office is responsible for recording and investigating complaints made against members of the organization.
How do you file a complaint against a Police Officer?
A member of the public is entitled to make a complaint against any member of the police force. Anyone who wishes to file a complaint against a police officer for alleged misconduct, unnecessary use of force, abuse of authority, discourteous or offensive language, etc, should notify the office by telephone, letter or in person. When filing a complaint, it would be very helpful for the complainant to get as much information as possible such as:
- Name of officer
- Badge number
- Physical description
- Registration/description of motor vehicle (where applicable)
- Time of alleged incident
- Place of alleged
- Names of witnesses
How are complaints dealt with?
Whenever a complaint is made, the officer receiving such complaint must take the complainant’s name, address and nature of the complaint. If the complainant wishes to make a statement, he/she should be allowed to do so.
If the allegation is bona fide and warrants an investigation, an investigation will be authorized by the Deputy Commissioner of Police. On completion of the investigation, the file is forwarded to the Deputy Commissioner of Police for onward transmission to the Commissioner of Police for adjudication.
The Commissioner of Police may choose not to deal with a complaint if it is deemed frivolous, vexatious or being made in bad faith.
Informal resolution of complaints
Not all complaints against police officers are formally investigated. Allegations about an officer’s conduct that are not that serious maybe resolve by way of an informal resolution. This involves bringing the complainant and the police officer(s) together to hear each other’s concerns. Such a resolution requires mutual consent of the complainant and the officer involved and the approval of the Commissioner of Police. This option is available at any time i.e. before, during or after the investigation.
Withdrawing a complaint
The complainant may withdraw the complaint at any time during the process. This must be done in writing. However, the Commissioner of Police may continue to the complaint if it is felt that the allegation should be investigated further.
As we celebrate this milestone, it would be remiss not to recognize the sterling contribution of the founding members, former and current members of staff of the department who have paved the way for the department to thrive and develop. Special mention must be made of the first two (2) officers who staffed the department. They are retired Superintendent of Police, Mr. Artis Davis, the first person to head the department; he was an Assistant Superintendent of Police at the time and retired Assistant Superintendent of Police, Mr. Jonathan Nicholls, who was a Station Sergeant.
Special thanks to the media and the members of the public for their support and partnership over the years. The media has been a strong and reliable partner on this journey and we wish to thank them very much.
The department has certainly made significant strides over its twenty years of existence. We now have an official and active police website (www.rsvgpf.gov.vc, a facebook and twitter account. These additions are intended to improve the interaction and interaction between the police and the public