Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves used his Budget Address on Monday to speak out against police officers who, he said, do not do enough to tackle crime in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Gonsalves, who is also Minister of National Security, said that his government’s efforts continue and new initiatives, particularly in intelligence gathering and analysis and crime detection, are being rolled out as part of efforts to reduce crime and increase citizen security.
He said that the overwhelming majority of police officers are focussed, courageous, and diligent in fighting crime.
“Unfortunately, a minority of them are uninterested in policing and are possessed of a sedentary public service mind-set, trotting out lame excuses for their failure and/or refusal to do their duty with any sense of urgency or at all; often, these very ones are the perpetual complainers of this, that, and the other,” Gonsalves told Parliament and media audiences.
He said the policy-makers and leadership of the Police Force, and the bulk of the disciplined police personnel “have to address satisfactorily this challenge of a minority of none-performing police officers. It is a matter on which the public rightly complains.”
He said the constabulary is composed of 836 police officers, 15 Traffic Wardens, 20 Rural Constables, 99 Fire Officers, and 91 Coast Guard Officers – a total of 1,061 persons.
The recurrent budget for the Police Force in 2017 is EC$27.6 million, for the Fire Services EC$3.7 million, and for the Coast Guard EC$4.2 million, an aggregate of EC$35.5 million.
Additionally, the Prison Services have 131 prison officers and an annual recurrent budget of EC$5.8 million.
In the 2017 Budget, the functional classification, “Public Order and Safety”, has an allocation of EC$63.8 million or 9 per cent of the total recurrent budget, inclusive of amortization and Sinking Fund contribution.
The Prime Minister announced that in 2017, the Police Force intends, according to its targeted Strategic Outcomes, to ramp up the percentage of arrests of persons reasonably suspected of committing crimes, especially violent crimes, and providing the basis for the prosecution of those against whom there is a reasonable prospect of conviction.
More extensive and intensive mobile and other patrols would be carried out; and responses to reports, especially emergency reports, of suspected criminal activity would be prompt and serious, Gonsalves told Parliament.
“The public expects that when accused persons are taken to the law courts that the presiding judicial officers be firm and fair. The public interest demands that justice be done in accordance with law and without unreasonable delay,” Gonsalves said.