Sunday’s controversial shooting incident in Gouyave, St. John highlights the urgent need for the establishment of an independent Police Oversight body in Grenada.
This shooting which involves a member of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) has brought to the forefront a number of issues that should force the Police High Command to review the internal workings of the force.
THE NEW TODAY has held the view for a long time that too many of our police stations in some of the out parishes are left in the hands of juniors as senior police officers disappear after 4.00 p.m.
The public is not getting value for money from the thousands of dollars paid in salaries every month to some of these officers including Inspectors, Assistant Superintendents and Superintendents of police.
It will be interested to know the role of the Officer-in-charge of the Gouyave station in the dispatch of the police party to the home of the victim and the instructions that were given by him to the police officer who headed the mission.
Did the Officer-in-charge know of the mission of the four or five police officers who showed up at the home of this Gouyave resident? Did anyone in the party call back the station and seek guidance on what to do when the mother of the victim refused to allow them onto her property that early morning?
Who really was in charge of the police party that morning? Did that person issue instructions to fire off the gun and to shoot because the life of one of his own was in danger? Did the police lave the station with a proper warrant?
RGPF has pursued a police of Community Policing for years but the time has come to relook it.
Our position is that matters like the Gouyave shooting should not be handled by RGPF itself and for their findings to be submitted to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for review and to make a final determination.
THE NEW TODAY is not suggesting that the DPP’s office should not be trusted to come up with an impartial decision on issues sent to it for adjudication.
However, there is deep suspicion in Grenada even before the investigation starts, that it will not be fair and free with the police being allowed to look into one of their own for alleged wrongdoing.
It is much better and in the national interest that an independent body that is outside of the influence of the police and the political directorate that can win the confidence of the public, should be set up as a matter of urgency to have oversight of the police force and its activities.
It is already established in other jurisdictions a Police Oversight body that is charged with such responsibilities:-
*Oversight bodies must have enough funding and spending authority to fulfill the duties set out in the enabling legislation that governs their functions.
*Access to all critical and necessary information and evidence in an investigation including access to decision makers in both the law enforcement agency itself and elected officials.
*Ability to review police policies, training and other systematic issues.
*Transparency and accountability to the community. This can increase public confidence in the oversight agency, as much of the work related to complaint investigations may be confidential and protected from public disclosure.
*Police oversight can benefit not only the individual complainant, but also the larger community, police and the various departments, and even elected or appointed officials.
Some potential benefits of the Police Oversight body are:
*Complainants are given a place to voice concerns outside of the law enforcement agency.
*Oversight can help hold the police department accountable for officer’s actions.
*Oversight agencies can help improve the quality of the department’s internal investigations of alleged misconduct.
*The community at large can be reassured that discipline is being imposed when appropriate, while also increasing the transparency of the disciplinary process.
*When the oversight agency confirms a complainant’s allegation(s), complainants may feel validated.
*Similarly, when the oversight agency exonerates the officer, the officer may feel vindicated.
*Oversight agencies can help improve community relations by fostering communication between the community and police agency.
*Oversight agencies can help reduce public concern about high profile incidents.
*Oversight agencies can help increase the public’s understanding of law enforcement policies and procedures.
*Oversight agencies can improve department policies and procedures. Policy recommendations can prevent issues by identifying areas of concern and subsequently offering options to improve policing.
*Oversight agencies can assist a jurisdiction in liability management and reduce the likelihood of costly litigation by identifying problems and proposing corrective measures before a lawsuit is filed.
*Mediation has multiple benefits to both citizens and police officers. If the oversight agency provides mediated solutions, it can help complainants feel satisfied through being able to express their concerns to the specific police officer in a neutral environment.
*Mediation can also help police officers better understand how their words, behaviours and attitudes can unknowingly affect public perceptions.
*By establishing an oversight system, public officials are provided the opportunity to demonstrate their desire for increased police accountability and the need to eliminate misconduct.
THE NEW TODAY believes that this period calls for new thinking and the creation of a truly independent Police Oversight committee as part of the national development agenda.