Police pushing back
CASTRIES, St. Lucia – Police Commissioner Vernon Francois has warned criminal elements that his officers would not stand idly by and allow threats to be made against their lives without taking requisite action.
The top cop told reporters that there have been a number of threats on the lives of police officers and their families by criminal elements since the start of “Operation Restore Confidence”, an initiative undertaken by police at the start of the year, to rid the streets of rogues.
“We are going to go ahead and continue the operation we have started in dealing with the crime problem that we face, I have asked my officers to be firm in dealing with criminality on the island, and there will not be any let up,” Francois said.
“So if some of these criminal elements think they can go on the media and pretend that the police are targeting them, the truth is we are not targeting any particular person. What we are doing is to ensure that persons with a criminal history, we are letting them know that we know them.”
Francois, who earlier denied the existence of a “hit list” and a “death squad” in operation within the police force, said that every instance when there is a police shooting there are threats of attack on police officers.
One of those listed recently handed a copy of the list to a television reporter complaining that the police had targeted him along with a number of persons for assassination.
“This we are not going to take lightly. We as a police organisation will not sit back and let people think that they can threaten the police and nothing will happen for that,” Francois said.
“We are going to push back, and take these people head on and I have told my officers that we are not going to give criminals any opportunity to attack or even threaten the police.
“Even in terms of the threats we are looking to take legal action against them but we are going to operate cautiously in dealing with them by being on our guard at all times,” the Commissioner added.
Francois said he was also aware of the presence of corrupt officers in the force, which may explain how a list prepared by the force detailing the most dangerous criminals and their photographs got into the hands on one of the wanted men.
“I am aware that not all police officers are law abiding and unfortunately are criminals themselves. There is a possibility that one of the criminal sympathizers in the department was responsible for passing on the list to the criminals,” he said.
“The fact of the matter is that we know full well that we have such people in the police force and we also targeting them by keeping a lookout for any sense of criminality within the Police Department, so it’s a total package in which we plan to deal with officers who work along with criminal elements in the society,” he said.
The Commissioner said there was nothing unusual about police compiling a list of persons who are well known to them and wanted for questioning in connection with various crimes.
There have been at least 17 homicides so far this year, five at the hands of police, who Wednesday shot and wounded two Castries men wanted for stealing and the illegal use of firearms. (CMC)