Opposition Leader Godwin Friday says it is time for Colin John to demit office as commissioner of police.
He noted that the police chief has said that the constabulary has to go back to the drawing board as far as it relates to dealing with crime in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“If you have to go back to the drawing board, well maybe you need a new artist,” Friday said, noting that John has been police chief for some time.
“We need to have proper leadership that people in the service trust and believe in and that the community also similarly,” Friday said.
He said the situation in the country is such that even the commissioner of police has acknowledged that some people have said they have lost confidence in the police and this has to be rebuilt.
“When you are admitting that, you are saying that you basically have failed. And that is something that we cannot afford to continue. We can’t continue like that and expect that the problem is going to improve,” Friday said on Boom FM.
“But the first thing we have to believe is that it is a problem that is solvable,” Friday said, adding that everyone knows that living in a society comes with certain risk because people are different.
“But we get to a point where you feel that it is it’s an acceptable risk for living in this society. You don’t want people to pack up their bags and say I’m going somewhere else that is done in other countries because it’s too violent,” Friday said.
He said he would love to say that he has confidence in the police, adding, “but in many instances, my confidence is shaken because of the statistics.”
Friday pointed out that of the 42 homicides last year, police have laid charges in 10 or 12 of them.
“We would like to hear of all homicides, say over the past 10 years; not just how many charges were laid, how many convictions,” Friday said.
“I mean, we’re talking about homicides here as the apex, the worst type of crime there is, but you can have sexual offences which …, again, … is an even bigger problem in our society.”
He said that in many instances people accept domestic violence as somehow a family matter.
The opposition leader said that in the same people are trying to compartmentalise the shootings in the country as “just a certain gang” or “it is cocaine related” and that “it doesn’t really affect the rest … of society”.
Friday said if the society feels that such a situation is somehow acceptable, “then you’ve lost the battle, because all you are saying, ‘You walk on the safe side of the road and leave these fellas on that side.
“We used to say it with domestic violence, ‘It’s not really our problem. It’s just that family, they’re always in trouble, leave them alone.’ That’s not how you deal with these things as a society. If we’re going to be a good society, then you have to tackle them and have to believe that we can make a difference.”
He said that some people note that crime happens all over the world, claiming that nothing can be done about crime.
“That is not true because there are some places I know, like in New York City in the early 80s, where crime was rampant. And then with policy and programmes you reduce it dramatically… Violent crimes in the United States started to go down.
“In St. Vincent and the Grenadines with the same population base, we didn’t have these kinds of offences.”
Friday also said that too often there is a situation where the police approach the community “as though everybody is a suspect”.
He said someone told him recently that something has to be done “about the police because they can’t just come and abuse people and so forth and expect that then you’re going to turn around or trust them”.
The opposition leader said there are good and professional officers. “We need to have that be the general rule in the system, that you have professionalisation of the police system.”
He said that promotion in the constabulary has to be based on merit, “so that they all feel motivated that you have a well-equipped system.
“We don’t have any forensics of any serious sort here in this country. How you’re going to solve complex crimes that require that unless you get assistance from abroad?” Friday said.
“You can’t just squeeze it out of informants because very often that doesn’t stand up in court. So, we have to have proper tools for the police as well, so that they feel that they have a chance in solving these offences.”