|Volume No. 1 Issue No. 24 - Friday, July 12, 2002
|A Partisan Police Department
by Dr. Emanuel Finn
the last eight years and two general elections, a series of interesting events have occurred in Dominica. The retirement of Dominica's Iron lady Dame Charles, the defeat and relegation of the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP), the rise and fall of the United Workers Party (UWP).
We witnessed a sharp decline in the economic well being of Dominica and the demise of the Banana industry. We saw the 'hurry-up' formation of the fragile Freelab coalition and the final ascendancy of Rosie Douglas to Prime Minister and his unfortunate and untimely death.
Rosie's death resulted in the promotion of a chief lieutenant of the Labour party from South City to take charge of the country.
During that time, we have witnessed the dismissal of a police commissioner and his deputy, the retirement of another, the speedy promotion, rise and fall of an Acting Commissioner, and the 'rebirth' and resusitation of the current commissioner. Also, we read about the controversy surrounding the chairman of the police commission and his suspension due to alleged politics mêlée.
Given all the dynamics within the once highly respected department, one wonders if the police force is being used as a political football? The temporary disabling of four police and two state vehicles at police headquarters last week (apparently by it own) speaks volumes to a department that is in disarray.
Civil society should give Chief Lestrade all the support at the conclusion of the investigation to kick out the responsible shameless bad apples from the force.
In spite of the fact that the alleged responsible parties may have legitimate issues with the government and top police brass, this type of hooliganism and disrespect should not be tolerated. What are the chances that these alleged officers have brutalized and disrespected ordinary and helpless Dominicans? This writer thinks the answers are obvious.
Do all these events represent a confusing, and detrimental politicization of the Dominican Police Department? One can only wonder about the breakdown of morale and leadership within the lower ranks.
Some former commissioners held dear to the belief that the force must avoid the appearance, impression and perception that it is playing politics. These former commanders viewed the noble task of law enforcement through (not political) unbiased police lens.
They also realized that playing politics
is like riding a tiger, which would eventually devour them. Indeed, that tiger has devoured some past commionsioners and sadly, maybe the department itself.
In order to avoid the appearance that the department is playing politics, this writer holds the view that police officers should not be registered members or advisors of any political party.
The behaviors and actions of those (not all) in charge of the force for the last decade have led the community to question some of the ethics and partisan nature of the force. This has brought degeneracy to the police force as
a cornerstone institution in the society.
It is debatable about which Prime Minister is responsible for fostering the deep-seated partisan politicking of the force or when it actually started. What is clear is that all our local heads of state need to share the blame.
Politicians cannot run police departments and their involvement only creates more problems. If the frightening trend of the politicization of the force continues, it will undoubtedly have far-reaching and detrimental consequences. The real losers will not be the politicians ('who come and go') but the police, and ultimately Dominica.
Some two decades ago the Dominica Defense Force (DDF) was not a neutral army and history has recorded it shamefully as the military wing of Patrick John's labour Government.
DDF's high command acted on party wishes and conducted itself in an inept, irresponsible and unprofessional manner. This ultimately contributed to their demise and to the fall of John's government.
The police commissioner's and country's fate could be a repeat of this episode if the high command are playing to the whims and interests of the party, which is in power and not necessarily to the well being and security of the country.
Reports indicated that the current Prime Minister selected Matthias Lestrade as commissioner based on his exemplary years of service and his position on Community Policing.
Mr. Charles' decision to pick Mr. Lestrade may have been influenced by the research finding of the study that was conducted in his constituency of Grandbay by Dominican - U.S based, University Of Chicago criminologist, Dr. Peter K. St. Jean.
The study supports strongly the policy of Community Policing in the most militant constituency (Grand bay) and in the rest of Dominica. Credit must be given to PM Pierre Charles, Commissioner Lestrade and Dr. St. Jean for their vision in embracing community policing.
In a recent conversation with chief Lestrade, we recalled as children the effectiveness of community policing in our community of La Plaine with the Rural Constables (Conestabs) and the uniformed police.
A revisit of this policy will go a long way in bringing back the good old days of excellent police-community relations and will help boost moral. Community policing can help immensely in improving police/community relations in South City (Grand Bay) and the rest of Dominica. The late President John F. Kennedy once said, "those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable".
By selecting a non-partisan police commissioner, the PM placed emphasis on the restoration of police pride and the high regard and respect, which it once held in the society.
In spite of the low moral and political decisions and union actions that have affected the department, there is no real evidence that a dangerous, infectious and poisonous politicization of the police force has taken place at this time. It is a situation that however needs constant monitoring.
We are still lucky to have an apolitical and non-partisan police force. One only hopes that it stays that way for a long time. It is in the national and security interests of our young nation that it does.