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EDITORIAL: We must have trust


EDITORIAL: We must have trust

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BEING A POLICE OFFICER is not an easy job, especially in these times when the public stridently cries out for the quick solving of crimes, and more so if there is the perception of a surge in criminal activity. The police must protect as they serve, but they must also solve crimes in the most professional manner.

This often requires tough spur-of-the-moment decisions by lawmen who are not acting out scenarios when carrying out investigations, whether against drug pushers or gun-toting lawless criminals eager to use lethal force.

Regardless of the time of day or the circumstances, the public wants successful suppression and solving of crimes, with no harm being suffered by police in the line of duty.

At the same time, the demand is for lawmen to avoid the tactics of some of their peers of yesteryear, when the use of brute force and disregard for basic civil and human rights of citizens were not infrequent.

These are different times, in which strident calls for transparency and accountability on the part of the lawmen come from attorneys and a public with higher expectations. And these calls are aided by technology that can capture virtually every move by law enforcement personnel.

This is why the Royal Barbados Police Force should be proactive in letting the public know the outcome of complaints referred to its Office of Professional Responsibility. Telling the public to refer complaints to that office without ever publicly ventilating the result is unacceptable.

We agree that not everything the police do can be exposed to the glare of public scrutiny, but this division of the police service must be viewed both internally and externally as carrying out its duties fearlessly and fairly.

The police service must appreciate that many people, including law-abiding citizens, do not like the idea of the police department policing itself. This is why summarised reports of investigations into complaints of police misconduct must be publicly disseminated even if only in an annual report. The community wants an assurance that our police force does not cover up problems related to its own.

The request for this level of openness is not meant to undermine the police but to give an assurance to the public that complaints and concerns are not dismissed – especially when people from the lower socio-economic stratum speak out against what they perceive to be unacceptable behaviour.

After all, neither the public nor police officers themselves would want even a relatively small number of officers within the RBPF and their alleged misdeeds to tarnish the good reputation of the organisation or its outstanding officers.

The hard-working lawmen out in the field may feel that they are under constant pressure regardless of the good they do. But they must appreciate that the legitimately high expectations of them mean that their actions will always be under scrutiny. The public must have trust and confidence in our police at all times.