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Change that makes sense

We suspect there are young men and women living in and around Rock Hall in St. Thomas who probably consider the concept of a District “D” police Station something foreign.

There must be an even larger number of Barbadians who do not even remember that Government had promised to build a “new” police station in Cane Garden, St. Thomas — probably before a single concrete wall was erected for the Lester Vaughan Secondary School. That dates back to when David Simmons, now Sir David, was MP for St. Thomas.

Decades later, there is no sign that there was ever a police station at Rock Hall and even fewer signs that there will ever be a station at Cane Garden. Since the original station was abandoned and then bulldozed, the men and women assigned to the District “D” jurisdiction had been housed at Holders Hill (outside of the station area), but that building was subsequently condemned and personnel moved to Holetown, where they now have been for several years.

Given the current economic circumstances, for which there appears no end, it is hardly likely that a new station will be built any time soon. And the same, we suspect, also applies to the long promised police and fire station in Six Roads, St. Philip.

But here’s the question: If a country has been able to operate without some particular facility for almost two decades — and since there is no national or even parochial outcry one could conclude there is no significant loss of efficiency — does that not suggest that perhaps it is not needed?

We choose to use the example of the District “D” station because it is glaring, but our argument has little to do with the police or policing, because for all we know the new station may be an absolute necessity. Our point is that in the process of public administration we have a tradition of making decisions and judgements based on what we have done traditionally, but unless we can dispassionately consider while not necessarily be bound to tradition, we are doomed to move forward based on ineffective planning.

So let’s stick with the District “D” scenario purely for the sake of discussions. How long ago was the country divided into these individual policing jurisdictions? For what purpose? What factors influenced the geographical boundaries? Have they ever been altered? Why does District “A” cover so much of St. Michael, while touching from St. Thomas to St. George and Christ Church, but lawmen based at Crab Hill can literally circle their station area in 15 to 20 minutes?

Because we are comfortable with what we put in place 50 or 100 years ago we give no consideration to whether it can’t be done more effectively today by making sensible adjustments. How many “clients” visit Crab Hill, Belleplaine or District “C” stations each day of their own free will? Are the services they require only available at these locations? And what difference would it make to effective policing if the “clients” who arrive in the backseat of a police vehicle went to District “E” instead of Crab Hill, or District “F” instead of Belleplaine?

Is a jeep setting out to patrol St. Peter or St. Thomas from Holetown less effective than one moving off from Speightstown or Horse Hill? Have we not come a long way from the days when a station had one Land Rover and each day most constables and even the corporal or sergeant covered almost the entire district on foot or aided by his trusted bicycle?

If we apply the same arguments to the Barbados Fire Service we have to consider other factors, but the questions still remain relevant. It would be unwise to site a fire station in a valley, for example, when the districts it serves are uphill since this would considerably slow response time of trucks up elevations laden with water.

But Barbados has changed dramatically over the last 100 years, while apart from Arch Hall, when last have we built a new station or shifted the bases of the various appliances?

What kind of picture would emerge if this thinking was applied across the public service? What are we maintaining in Health, Public Works, Education, etc that burn limited resources without commensurate benefits — even if they were once considered absolutely necessary?

If we want to remake how we do business, we first have to overhaul the way we think!

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