The Serious Offences Court, on Monday, paid tribute to Detective Sergeant Philbert Chambers one day after he was shot and killed while attempting to execute a search warrant at a home in Campden Park.
Speaking to iWitness News after the court had adjourned for the day, Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne said it was with “great sadness” that she learnt of the death of the officer.
Chambers, 30, who was originally from Barrouallie and was assigned to the Questelles Police Station, was shot and killed by Gleason Lewis, 39, as he and colleagues went to the man’s house to execute a warrant, police say.
The officer, who rose quickly through the ranks just 11 years after enlisting, died just three days after he last testified in matter at the court and two days before a preliminary inquiry in a murder case he investigated was scheduled to begin.
Browne said Chambers was a very dedicated member of the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force.
“He took his task seriously. And he left no stone unturned when it came to investigations. He was very vigilant,” she said.
The chief magistrate said the detective was not only very proactive with regard to his work in policing but also, he took great interest in the youth in his area.
“And that was evident by his involvement in the police youth club.”
She said Chambers was always ready to assist the court in the execution of its duties.
“He may not be on call or at work, but would always go above and beyond to see that the work of the court is done efficiently and effectively.
“It really saddened me to hear of his passing. I’m still in a bit of a shock; somehow can’t believe it,” Browne told iWitness News.
She said this is a trying time for the police force, as an officer was killed in the line of duty in a week that another officer, who died after a period of illness, was buried.
“This brings to mind the fact that we have to be very vigilant, when executing our duties. Be prepared, we never know what situation we’re walking into. So, I would really like for the members of the police force to be more cautious and be more vigilant and those other officers that are amongst us, strive to always emulate the attitude that Chambers displayed and go above and beyond and always do their job with professionalism and seek to assist persons,” Browne said.
“He was always willing to assist and help persons. And it is doing just that, you know, he came to his demise, and it’s really sad. I just wish that the members of the royal police force would take comfort in the fact that they would have memories of him and that we continue to use those memories to comfort our hearts.”
At the beginning of the sitting Monday morning, Senior Prosecutor Adolphus Delplesche, a former detective inspector, asked for a moment of silence in memory of the fallen officer.
“Chambers was a committed man. Chambers was a dedicated man. Chambers was a reliable man. Chambers was a community builder, organized, hardworking. He was a conscientious human being,” Delplesche told the court in a tribute.
Delplesche said that Chambers was so committed that sometimes when due to proceed on leave, he will do extra duty.
“He was the life blood at Questelles Police Station, everyone worked around him. He was not a rising star. He had already risen. He was a star and he was shining bright,” the prosecutor said.
“I lived in the district and any time police transport passing, put pot on fire — Chambers on board. He was well loved and appreciated by many. He did not only do police duties fearlessly but saw the need to organise youth — was a pioneer of Questelles Youth Club. He had a shy look but was not one to stand back. He was always one to be at the forefront like Uriah and it is like Uriah that he was brought to his demise. May his soul rest in peace,” the prosecutor said.
And, Counsel Grant Connell told the court that he had the opportunity to cross examine Chambers even just the week before his death.
“He was one of the bright sparks. No matter how harshly he was dealt with, he rolled with the punches and kept smiling,” the defence counsel said.
“I am not usually one to give credit and when police get credit it is because he would have gone the extra mile. I trust what happened on the scene will be a lesson for us all, properly investigated. Someone with mental illness was involved. How do we go forward? He will be truly missed. He was a bright spark and taken away. May his soul rest in peace,” Connell said.
And, Corporal Atnel Ash, who is attached to the Process Department, said he grew to know Chambers as “a dedicated and hardworking individual — someone I could have called on to assist with warrants.
“Last week at court I recalled Senior [Prosecutor] saying, ‘Chambers, you not yourself today’ — to which he smiled. Last week he passed at the office and conversed. The organization would miss him. I would miss him. May his soul rest in peace,” Ash said.
And, Corporal Orlando Collins told the court that from the time he got to know Chambers, he has shown himself to be “a great police officer, decent and dedicated who went above and beyond his duty”.
“I called for his assistance on several occasions and he never said no. I had the privilege of speaking to him last Friday and Saturday at Questelles Police Station. He was in good spirits. We even shared a few jokes. It was a real heartbreaker for me at Barrouallie Police Station when I received the news of his passing.
I could not believe and I left the station and went on the scene to see what transpired. I saw him on the scene and since then I have not been myself, coping with the loss of a fellow comrade and great individual. I would like to take this opportunity to express my condolences to his friends, family and the entire Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force. May his soul rest in peace.”
Meanwhile, in a statement on Tuesday, the Police Force said that Chambers enlisted on Dec. 6, 2008.
He was promoted to act as corporal on June 1, 2017 and was confirmed in that rank on Dec. 31, 2018.
In January 2020, Chambers was promoted to the rank of Sergeant (acting).
Chambers spent seven of his years as a regular police officer at the Questelles Police Station and the remainder as a detective.
He also worked at the Chateaubelair Police Station.
Chambers was very involved with the Police Youth Clubs (PYC) and was one of the co-ordinators for the Barrouallie Police Youth Club for a brief period while he was stationed at the Chateaubelair Police Station.
On transfer from Chateaubelair to Questelles Police Station in 2011, he formed the Questelles Police Youth Club and was the district coordinator up to the time of his death.
“Sgt. Chambers was a very jovial, diligent, committed and disciplined police officer who will be greatly missed by all. The Commissioner of Police, Mr. Colin John, other ranks of the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force extend deepest condolences to the family and friends of the late Sgt. 209 Philbert Chambers. May his soul rest in eternal peace,” the police said.
Chambers was one of several of his parents’ 13 children to choose a career in law enforcement.
He had two brothers who enrolled in the British army and another who was a rural constable in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
His sibling who might be best known in law enforcement is retired corporal Fitzbourne Chambers, a former narcotics officer, who left the RSVGPF after 20 years of service.
On Wednesday, the retired corporal told iWitness News that when his brother was transferred from Chateaubelair to Questelles, it was originally for a short stint.
“He was that good that they made him the CID officer in the district. And where he was living in Campden Park, people were complaining to me saying, talk to your brother. He gone to live in ‘Murderville’.’
“I said, ‘Leave him. He has to know what he’s doing.’ I advised him and he made that whole district one of the most peaceful districts in the country.
“Prior to his arrival, it was crazy. People were getting shot over and over, but he brought a certain calm to that district to the point that they attempted to transfer him a number of times, and the district officer would say, ‘No, we can’t move him.’ He was that good,” Chambers said.
Chambers, who had also been involved in police youth clubs, said that he had instilled in his brother that policing is building communities and not just arresting people.
“When you get close to the community, that is when you reduce crime. People will be fearful of committing a crime because you know, ‘I don’t want to disrespect Mr. Chambers.’ And I used to implore him, ‘Do not disrespect people. Do not insult people. Do not curse.’
“He did not curse, he never drank a beer. Smoking was out the picture,” Chambers said of his fallen brother.