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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Trouble in Paradise: A lesson for Police Forces and Services

Policing is the easiest job I have ever done. However, it is not a job for the foolish, those who are weak in heart or one who cannot take his or her own initiative. From my studies of my practicing policing, I have concluded that even though those who practices policing and most who manages these law enforcement institutions often seems to equate the functions and objective of these organizations as full military; but such institute are considered paramilitary. Although most of its functions mirror that of the military; there nature, there functions, objectives and the duties the police forces/services are asked to perform; as well as, the demographic they are required serve; requires a generally different approach in the execution of the duties.

Each police officer has a professional obligation to understand his or her duties and his responsibilities as it relates to the law (s) they are expected to uphold. My police brothers and sisters must always remember, their superior officers are there to guide them, to protect the community’s rights from indiscriminate officers and their actions and to ensure they function within the frame work of the law. In other words; Supervisors/managers are there to ensure the job is done in a cost effective, professional manner while preserving the rights of all involved, even the rights of the accuse person.

It is important to note; a superior officer, cannot/should not instruct his junior to break the law. A senior officer does not have the authority to violate the rights of any person he or she supervises and every order that is given by any such person in authority must be a “LAWFUL” order. A junior police officer, has no obligation, to execute or comply with any unlawful order and it matters not where or from whom that order came.

Whilst a serving member of the Bermuda Police Service; I was unlawfully slapped with 26 internal charges. The authority did so because I refused to comply with what I have deemed and justifiable proven to be unlawful orders. Charges I was not afraid to face. It is more important for me to practice integrity at all times and suffer the consequences, then to compromise my standards. So I simply choose not to surrender my rights and it was my right not to comply with any unlawful order. I took the time to point out to my superiors using the law, why I cannot lawfully and in good conscience complying with their instructions. Unfortunately, it would not have facilitated their general intentions, if my supervisors were to comply with the rule of law.

Another point I will like my brothers in blue to understand is; A superior officer, should only give lawful instruction, they can even tell you how to execute the assignment; however, when you arrives at the scene, you has an obligation to yourself, your duties and the people you are required to interact with; to do the following things on arrival at the scene.

• Evaluate the situation.
• Deal with the situation base on your evaluation
• Make adjustment in your mannerism, attitude and your general course of action as the conditions changes.

There are three important points I will like my police brothers to take note of and they are:

1. No junior police officer is entitled or has any obligation to comply with or execute any unlawful instruction.

2. No junior police officer has any obligation, to comply with instructions that will cause them (the officers) to break/violate any laws within the jurisdiction where he or she practices.

3. And no police officer is obligated to comply with any instructions that will cause them to violate the rights of another or their own rights.

When an individual enlists to become a police officer, the first thing that took place is; the swearing in of the officer. He or she takes an oath; they swear and they are expected to be obligated to, uphold the law without fear or favor. What this oath is saying? It is says, a police officer’s first and primary obligation is to the upholding of the law and he or she must do so without fear of anyone, that is: without fear of the criminal and without fear of his superiors; not granting any special favor to criminal or any special favor to complainant, lawyer, Prime Minister etc. he or she must apply the laws and the conditions of the law with an unbiased loyalty.

It is important to note, any time the actions of a police officers, contravenes the law, anyone’s rights or runs contrary to the code of conduct that is expected of such professionals; it is expected that the offending officer, should be held responsible and accountable for his or her actions. It is important to note, it matters not who gives the instructions. A good example of this is: Corporal Casanki Quow, Police Constable (PC) Hadley Ballentyne and PC Osrick James of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force, who were charge with assault causing actual bodily harm. This assault was apparently inflicted on a school child. These officers were tried and found guilty of the offence they were charged with. The officers appealed their convictions, but what was unfortunate for the three lawmen, their conviction upheld by The Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal.

This brings me to the main focus of this discourse. On 2nd day of March 2011, the events in the St. Vincent that led to the speaker of the St. Vincent House of Parliament, instructing the Leader of the opposition Hon. Arnhim Eustace to leave the house of parliament. Unfortunately this matter escalated to the point where elected and appointed members of the house of parliament were allegedly forcefully removed from the building that houses the St. Vincent Parliament. It was also reported that appointed and elected members of the opposition allegedly sustained serious injuries.

It is important for practicing police officers, to always give thought to what they are about to do, before they do it; as a matter of fact, this should be a general rule for everyone. We must also be reminded there are right and wrong ways of executing lawful duties and police officers ought to use common sense and good judgment when there is no protocol in place for the execution of specific duties.

What should have happened?

It is important to note, that in matters of peace keeping, the primary objectives of the police is to:

1. Ensuring that order is maintain.

2. Ensure the restoration of order when such seizes to exist.

3. Once order has been restored, the police ought to put suitable measures in place to prevent the reoccurrence of disorder.

When it comes to peace keeping, preserving order, the restoration of order and general law enforcement the police are the professional. They are required to address such matter base on their knowledge, their experience, their training and their assessment of the situation. They also has an obligation, apply those characteristics that puts them in the best possible position, to deal with such issues when the needs arises. They must come to the best possible solution for all involved; this requires quick and clear thinking, good judgment and unwavering actions.

No politician, medical doctor or PhD, Lawyer, Judge etc. ought to tell the police how to execute his or her lawful duty. The police have the tools required to bring resolution to problems and it is the officer’s best judgment that counts. The police officer will be out of his place to tell the politician, the doctor, the lawyer or any professional how to practice his or her craft. When a police officer’s actions, falls outside the scope of the law, it is the officer who is expected to face the courts or other tribunal; bearing this in mind, a police officer has to be foolish; to abundant his better judgment and allow others to impose their opinion on him or her as to what and how things ought to be done.

Here we had a situation, where the Speaker of the House of Parliament asked the Leader of the opposition to leave the place of his employment: The St. Vincent parliament. Mr. Eustace refused to leave on ground of principled; as a result, the other members of the opposition peacefully went and create a barrier in order to prevent his removal; in an act of civil disobedience. The million dollar question is; do the police have a protocol to deal with such occurrences? If not, is there a professional manner to deal with such situation? Unfortunately; the police do not have a protocol, which they are expected to follow when dealing with such incidents. I will be providing a protocol to be followed in situation such as the one that ended in chaos. I only hope, Commissioner Miller is big enough to objectively review this protocol and implement such if it meets the need of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force.

In the event such incident should occur in the House of Parliament again; and I have no doubt it will, or in any official functions, the following steps should be taken. I will apply this protocol to the incident that occurred on the 2nd day of March 2011.

i. The senior officer who is detail to keep order in the house, should have approached the leader of the opposition or if the Leader of the opposition were inaccessible because of the barrier that was formed around him; then the senior officer should address each person individually, informing them of the offence they are committing or inform the person that his or her action or his or her failure to comply with instruction is likely to cause a breach of the peace.

ii. They (the offenders) should also be informed the police have the authority to arrest anyone whose actions are likely to cause a breach of the peace and failure to withdraw from their action or failure to comply with the order would be resulted in their arrest.

iii. “One by one,” each person who failed to desist from the specific actions or who fail to comply with the instruction of the police officer; should have their liberty taken away (arrest). Being under arrest and in an orderly manner; the prisoners (arrested person) should be escorted out of the parliament.

iv. If the level of disrespect exhibited to the police by the prisoner was so outrageous that an example need to be made then the prisoner may be have relevant charges laid against them and taken to court.

v. Or when the prisoners (offenders) are out of the environment, where he or she is no longer a threat or can no longer cause a breach of the peace, the potential offender or offender’s liberty could be restored but not before being warned not to return to the house of parliament until they are legally required to do so.

vi. This procedure should be followed and applied by the police, without fear or favor and should be apply to anyone who so choose to misconduct themselves in the house on grounds of principle or out of disrespect and it should be applied to Prime Minister, Senator and all position between.

It is important for us to bear in mind; an arrested person’s liberty can be restored at any point after his arrest. In cases where the arrest was to avoid a breach of the peace, when that person is no longer in a position where his or her actions or lack thereof, can cause a breach of the peace, their liberty should be restore.

This should be the protocol, the police should employ when dealing with such incident in the future. After all, the house of parliament is supposed to be a dignified place, where the business of state is dealt with and such business should be handled in a dignified and professional manner. Therefore the police should also be dignify in there conduct and such dignity should be employ when dealing with the hon. Men and woman whom the people elect to serve their country.

In conclusion; if the allegations that was propagated, as it relates to the events of the 2rd day of March 2011, is proven to be true; then the actions of the police officers involved, were unprofessional, inhumane, and amount up to an abuse of power. Any police officer (s) who forcefully tosses; pushes or intentionally cause any one to fall down such highly pitched stairs, and the victims sustains injuries in the process as allegedly occurred in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, those police officers can face possible criminal charges.