RE: St Lucian Fisherman Alleges Bad Treatment By Vincentian Cops
I don’t believe this man’s story about the boat engine shutting off. This is an excuse frequently given by Barbadian and Saint Lucian fishermen when they are caught trying to traffic drugs in Saint Vincent waters.
As a matter of fact, it is an excuse usually given by persons involved in illicit activities.
It is very disappointing, however, to learn that he was allegedly placed in a cell with wet clothing and given two meals per day for three days. This amounts to torture.
A good defence attorney would shred the prosecution’s case to pieces on this basis if he is charged.
Vincentian Police Officers have to rise above these types of behaviours. We are a modern democracy and this should be reflected in our policing practices.
Every person in custody must be treated with dignity and respect. Often times there seem to be confusion by some officers as it relates to the role of the Police.
The role of the police is the protection of life and property, the detection of crime, the preservation of the public’s peace and the arrest and prosecution of offenders. Principally, the Police role is to see the law is upheld.
Irrespective of the nature of the crime the police must always respect the constitutional rights and dignity of all persons. We must put measures in place to ensure we conform to best practice and respect these rights.
The Police Force needs a professional standards unit to ensure police officers ascribe to good ethical behaviour.
There needs to be a clearly written policy on the treatment of accused persons in police custody.
The policy should set out a proper process of documenting the movements of prisoners other than the station diary i.e. a prisoner in custody form.
This should be used to record cell visits, meals, personal property, prisoner’s movements etc. Movements should include visits to the restroom, those relating the taking of statements or interviews, to and from courts.
Essentially every movement should be captured on this form to account for every minute or second a person spends in police custody.
These measures can safeguard the police as well as the prisoner. Placing a prison in police custody in wet clothing for three days is inhumane and undignified.
Situations like these can be easily corrected by having a fresh change of clothing readily available for persons in custody. This can easily be a pair of shorts and a t-shirt or pair of “overall”.
We must continue to support our Police but we must also encourage them to improve their standards where there are gaps.
I am very thankful for the services they provide in keeping us safe. Let’s hope that we do not have these types of allegations in the future.