Reactionary policing

Dateline 1984. Trouble related to drugs and gun violence rears its ugly head in Nelson Street and its City environs. Then Commissioner of Police Orville Durant conducts the mandatory walk-through of the problem spots and during the night mounts a platform a short distance from the historic Gwen Workman Shop where residents are promised that the situation will be brought under control.

Dateline 1990. Police constable Marlon Marville is shot and killed while on duty in New Orleans, St. Michael. The hierarchy of the Royal Barbados Police Force conducts the mandatory walk-through, promises justice, a police out-post and social interventions.

Dateline 1991. Trouble related to drugs and gun violence weekly presents its ugly head in Deacons Farm, St. Michael. Again, the hierarchy of the Royal Barbados Police Force carries out the mandatory walk-through, a police post is established at the entrance to Deacons Farm and social intervention is promised.

Dateline 2009. Trouble related to drugs and gun violence mushrooms in the Pinelands, St. Michael community. There is the obligatory walk-through, a few raids, promises of social intervention and a mobile police presence.

Dateline 2012. Trouble related to drugs, gun violence and asinine testosterone feuds, raises its hideous head in the New Orleans/Chapman Lane, St. Michael communities. There is the expected walk-through, promises of social intervention and another mobile police post.

We have seen it all before. It is called reactionary policing. There is absolutely no doubt that law enforcement agencies in Barbados have served this country well, often with limited resources, but with that intangible, under-appreciated quality of dedication and unswerving commitment to the service of the Barbadian populace.

But we are satisfied that reactionary or public relations policing does little to root out crime and violence in our communities. And history has proven it. Crime, drugs and violence are still a way of life for many in those mentioned troubled areas of Barbados. Of course, one is also sure to find thousands of law-abiding citizens in those same communities.

In a small society such as Barbados, the police are blessed, or should be blessed, with an advantage identified and drilled into their heads from their recruitment called “local knowledge”. The Barbadian society is too small and too interlocked for drug dealers and gun-totters to remain under the radar ad infinitum. They do not live in remote areas or underground. They are our immediate neighbours. We suggest, that with the necessary intelligence and evidence-gathering, they be pursued robustly without the customary notification that law enforcers are on their way.

We also suggest that when excellent initiatives by the Royal Barbados Police Force such as mobile outposts come into being that they not be abandoned when there is a perceivable lull in criminal activity in certain areas.

A number of posts, including that at Deacons Farm, were closed, and have remained closed, after what appeared a diminution in lawless behaviour. The existence of programmes such as the Resident Beat Officer and the Community Watch has paled in comparison to what existed in the late 1980s and early 1990s when first introduced. In several instances resident beat officers have been diverted to other duties, especially in the month of December, and community watch programmes have died, are dormant, or simply need an infusion of interest from the powers that be. This is not just our assessment, but the complaint of many of those involved in these processes.

We have previously visited the City between the hours of 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. and have encountered neither mobile nor foot patrols. We have randomly quizzed residents in St. Michael housing communities such as Warrens, Lodge Terrace, Rock Dundo Park, Bank Hall and Grazettes Terrace, about the presence of the once prevalent diurnal and nocturnal foot patrols and most responses have not been positive.

Some years ago, we are told, an effort was made to implement the Bratton theory of policing and it worked wonders in the Bridgetown Division that encompasses some of the same troubled spots we have mentioned. What has become of it? Are our officers still practising William Bratton’s theory that if there is intervention into minor, petty criminal acts, greater inroads could be made into major criminal behaviour? Barbados’ officialdom has often boasted of having one of the better police forces in the Caribbean and we believe that this is no idle boast.

What we would wish is for the average Joe in the New Orleans, Chapman Lane, Deacons Farm, Pinelands or any other community in Barbados to believe that boast by the action he or she sees and the results that accrue.

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