BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - CHARGED with the responsibility of serving and protecting the people of St. Kitts and Nevis, the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force is being chastised publicly for the behaviour of one of its own, at a time when the agency is seeking to bring communities together.
An incident over the weekend has once again thrust the spotlight on the conduct of officers within the Police Force, raising questions over whether the training programmes for its members are adequate or if it is the attitude of those who wield powers over others is causing the problem.
A video making rounds on social media shows a man breaking bottles in what has been reported as the Newtown area. As a police vehicle arrives on scene, the man, with outstretched hands, appears to be surrendering to three male officers who disembarked the vehicle.
Ironically, one of the officers appears to forcibly slamming the man to the ground among the broken bottles.
The officer’s action has raised concerns over the manner in which some members of the Police Force have repeatedly gone about arresting alleged lawbreakers.
It also raises concerns over the public’s depleting trust of members of the Police Force, as well as highlights a trend of inappropriate behaviour by some ranks of that institution.
In February 2021, the Force’s Standard Operating Procedures was breached when an officer was recorded standing on the back of a man who was lying face down in a hot concrete drain while another officer looked on.
Instead of educating members of the public on the role and use of social media, the officer who stood on the man’s back had threatened to arrest the individual who recorded the incident.
With the popularity of social media and smartphones, nothing goes unrecorded, bringing to light the challenges of officers getting away with breaking the laws they are supposed to uphold.
SKNVibes understands that, in recent times, some police officers had been threatening reporters and cameramen at homicide scenes for which they were assigned to provide coverage.
The bad behaviour was again highlighted earlier this year when a man was slammed to a chair by officers while at the JNF Hospital. That incident did not get the same level of outcry as the one on this weekend’s video.
Following reports of officers’ behaviour, Commissioner of Police Hilroy Brandy was forced to institute refresher courses. But the problem may be deeper than those courses, as a number of officers have been dragged before the courts for breaking the laws they are mandated to uphold, while being unable to think on their feet and control crowds.
Several weeks after the February 2021 incident, it took two squads of officers to control a knife wielding man who was later shot by ranks.
In that incident, police said the man failed to adhere to their commands and he “advanced towards the officers with a knife, swung the knife at them, and threatened to kill one of them”.
That was then followed by several arrests of officers for various offences, including one officer arrested and charged along with a female for being in possession of an illegal firearm.
Another officer was charged for throwing contraband into the prison compound.
Equally, officers have been raising concerns about the attitude of persons when they are executing their duties.
Officers of the Police Force have a mandate and purpose “to uphold the law fairly and firmly, without fear or favour, to prevent crime, to pursue and bring to justice those who break the law, to keep the peace, to protect, help and reassure residents and visitors and to be seen to do all this with integrity and impartiality”.