An embarrassing few weeks for Commissioner of Police, Edvin Martin as shocking reports of police brutality and misconduct emerge.
Commissioner Martin faced the media at a news conference Friday during which he sought to reassure the public that the members of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) are not out of control.
In the last week alone one man, Shevi Ravi Baptiste died in police custody, and the Commissioner confirmed that a security guard at a business establishment was arrested by a police officer who took offence to being asked to wear a mask after he tried to enter without one, in violation of COVID-19 protocols.
Recently, one man Ronald Charles was so bad brutalised by Police Corporal Kenny Herry that he suffered serious injury to his face and Friday the police Chief described the injuries suffered at the hands of one of his men as “shocking”.
Charles was struck in the face at least two times, once with a baton and then the policeman’s knee, suffering a fractured nose from the blows. The injury was so severe that he required surgery.
Herry was only arrested and charged after the injured man took his case to the court of public opinion, appearing in the media and on social media platforms.
With emerging signs of a crisis of confidence in the RGPF and widespread complaints from the public about the conduct of members of the force, the Police Chief sought to offer reassurance that there is transparency and accountability within the institution.
He offered the handling of the matter involving Corporal Herry as an example of transparency in investigating and taking action against police officers who break the law.
The Commissioner met with the victim after the incident became public.
He said the shocking images which appeared in the media prompted him to meet with the injured man.
“I must hasten to indicate that we subsequently learned through the media and social media of the gravity of injury to Mr. Charles.
“Seeing those reports myself was shocking and I had no knowledge of the extent of injuries to Mr. Charles.
“As a result of that meeting I was able to request and did receive in very short order, the relevant information which we did not have previously. Having received that information we then quickly put it back into the file, submitted it to the DPP office and of course the subsequent result then came back, resulting in the arrest and charge of one of our own.”
While the Commissioner has always been consistent in his claim that the police can properly investigate their own, contrary to public perception, on Friday he conceded that the establishment of an independent complaint bureau for the purpose of investigating police wrongdoing does have “merit”.
In recent months, police officers have been involved in the shooting of civilians resulting in death, unprofessional brandishing of service weapons and beatings.
In what can be considered an attempt at damage control he told the media, “Being a police officer does not give us the right nor the privilege to break the said laws that we are tasked with enforcing”.
While criminal activity and misconduct is nothing new to the police force there appears to be a rise in such incidents since the Emergency Powers Act went into force last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.