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New laws needed for better service

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, though noting that Barbados “has a good trustworthy police force”, wants legislative changes to make the Police Complaints Authority’s work easier.

His hope was that after discussion with the organisation, there would “soon” be amendments to relevant laws “so that members of the public can get even better service than they are getting now.

The St. Michael South MP, who was speaking in the House of Assembly during debate on the Police Complaints Authority (Validation) Bill, said a major part of the problem now was that the authority had to wait on lawmen to help investigate complaints against themselves, something that was taking as much as three years.

“There is an inherent contradiction in the legislation that while you have a Police Complaints Authority to deal with complaints against the police the authority still has to depend on the police force to do critical investigations in relation to those complaints before the authority itself can act and provide the kind of redress, or advise on the kind of redress, that a complainant may have,” he said.

“And the same problems, therefore, that led to the creation of the authority, have now begun to bedeviled the authority itself because the authority has to wait on the police force to investigate matters in relation to police officers and sometimes can be made to wait for as long as two or three years before the police force can get back to the authority.

“We are going to have to take a second look at this legislation and try to make sure that it is a little more efficacious in the production of the kind of results that it was intended to produce. At the best of times in any society, Barbados is no special case in this regard, citizens regard the police force with a certain measure of suspicion, that’s a fact of life across the world,” he added.

Stuart said it was important to have “an infrastructure of confidence that defines the relationship between the police force and members of the public”.

“In the discharge of their duties police officers don’t go out in the society to deal with saints. Dealing with the criminal element and dealing with issues of domestic violence can be very difficult, can be very challenging, and members of the public with whom the police have to deal may not always understand why the police have had to behave in a particular way, not trying to suggest that the police are always right either because very often in the courts of law under cross examination missteps by the police can be uncovered as well,” he noted.

“But the bottom line is that if you have a complaints authority, which is suppose to provide redress for citizens, and which is suppose to deal with the issue of confidence of citizens in the processes of the authority and the confidence too that moves between citizen and police and police and citizen.

“That authority should have the statutory teeth to deal rather more directly with complaints, rather than having to rely on the same police force to go away and investigate and then come back and report to the authority, which sometimes can take … three years and so on. “(SC)

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