A Former Police Officer Gives RBPF Commissioner Dottin Some Advice…
The recent news that members of the Royal Barbados Police Force had been refused entry to Millennium Heights, St Thomas, Barbados, a gated community, when they were investigating a complaint of domestic violence from someone within the gated community, is an indication that the Commissioner of Police, his Officers, NCOs and the men in this 1500 force do not know their authority under the Laws of Barbados. Further, it is my understanding that this has happened at gated communities on several occasions prior to this.
When a police is sworn in, he or she is sworn in as a peace officer, which is separate from a police officer, or gazetted officers, which means a commission. Both are in fact peace officers. Those officers attending Millennium Heights and being refused entry, should have immediately radioed the control of this refusal, and given the security guards the alternative of allowing them immediate entry or being arrested for obstruction of a police officer carrying out his or her duties. The only way that the police officer has no jurisdiction in Barbados is on the premises of an Embassy, which is considered a part of the country being represented. Hence people seeking asylum attempt to climb fences on to the embassy compound, and the police cannot touch them.
The fact that this matter reached the public domain should serve as a warning to the Commissioner of Police that all ranks in Barbados need re-training, not only in their authority with powers of arrest, and most important, the amount of force used when carrying out an arrest, i.e. only that amount force to be used to overcome the resistance to the policeman’s force.
This re-training should also include the recording of complaints in writing in the station diary, and the identification of the policeman, when asked by the complainant; who is assigned to investigate these complaints, and the investigation be supervised by a senior NCO to ensure that it is done thoroughly and quickly. Too often the public make complaints to a policeman or to a police station, and there is no record of that complaint, and when the complainant wishes to know the status of the investigation into his complaint, there is no record.
Similarly, if a complainant makes a complaint at a police station, they often give him the run around that this falls under the jurisdiction of another police station. The correct procedure is that where the complaint is first made, it is recorded, and it is the responsibility of the police to see that it is directed to the right jurisdiction and the complainant advised accordingly.
When correspondence is received from the police and there is no file number quoted, it could indicate that there is no official record within the police force of the matter. Of course, police statistics can be made to look very favourable if complaints are not recorded, as then it would show a lack of criminal or other activity within the area.
Poor Investigation Into A Suspicious Death
I have been indirectly involved in a matter in the Coroner’s Court which started in 1997, when the body of Brenda Hayhurst, female, U.K. citizen, 54 years, was found floating in the sea off Long Bay, Christ Church. I was appalled to learn that there was a very poor post mortem with only blood samples for alcohol and drugs, but no stomach contents, vaginal smears, etc. The body was not badly decomposed, and had only been missing about 36 hours. Certain basic investigative methods were not followed, including obtaining the telephone records and identifying those numbers that she had been in touch with shortly before her death.
The motor vehicle that she had rented on the Monday, has never been found, but parts of a similar motor vehicle were found on the beach between Sam Lord’s Castle and Long Beach . The bumper was definitely identified as being from the vehicle because of certain defects, but without serial numbers, one could only say that the parts were similar. It is now 10 years since the body was recovered, and the Coroner has not been able to give a written judgment. This means that the deceased’s Will, if she had one, could not be probated.
As a result of this sudden death, I made certain enquiries and found that around 2002 there was a backlog of over 500 Coroners’ cases outstanding, dating back to around 1980. The coroners were, in fact, magistrates of the various jurisdictions in Barbados , who acted as coroners in their jurisdiction. A coroner with island-wide jurisdiction was appointed, and in 3 – 4 years, this backlog of Coroner’s cases has been reduced to about 10. I have had the opportunity of sitting in the Coroner’s Court, and the Coroner reading her findings, and I am impressed with the way in which each matter is handled.
However, in the last two years, there has been a rapid turn over of police presenters in the Coroner’s Court. This affects the work of the Coroner’s Court as the police presenter usually comes through the Prosecutor’s office, and knows how to deal and present the evidence collected by the investigating officers. Within the police force, it would appear it is not appreciated that to be selected as a Coroner’s presenter shows ability, and that this appointment is not a dead-end job, but shortens the route to promotion.
Of course, this depends on if the force has a properly organized and staffed personnel department, where there is an established route through training and experience that a police officer advances throughout his or her career. This avoids politicians interfering and promoting those who give the politician inside information, either on people or cases, and are rewarded by promotion, often leading to incompetent persons rising above the level of their ability.
The Coroner’s Court is the oldest office in the British criminal system, dating back to common law, as the Coroner reported direct to the king or queen on the sudden or unnatural death of any of His or Her Majesty’s subjects. It is still the cornerstone of investigation as to how the person came to their death.
Foreign Police On Bajan Soil For Cricket World Cup
Cricket World Cup 2007 with the final being held in Barbados from 14th – 28th April has also caused me some concern. Some months ago it was reported that some 1000 police were coming from South Africa to assist with crowd control. Crowd control rubbish, this is a riot squad brought in to back up our local police and military. The figure of 500 was announced this week, and I trust that within 24 hours of this being published, the entire detachment will not be brought into Barbados .
These migratory policemen would not know their way around Barbados by road, or have any contact, and would therefore be useless as an investigative branch, other than a strong-arm branch to manhandle people with batons. Should they come I would recommend that they be given lectures in how to avoid AIDS, and from the Family Planning Department.
Their DNA should be established in the case of paternity suits, and I would expect that Nelson Street and behind the Grandstand at The Garrison would be the most policed areas in Barbados .
I have had training and experience with a very respected police force, and I give my advice to the Commissioner of Police, Mr Hartley Dottin, that politics must be avoided if he wishes to have an independent police force, and that there needs to be training, both for his officers and NCOs, and all ranks in the Royal Barbados Police Force.
St. Peter, Barbados
April 9, 2007