Dottin breaks silence

 Former Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin has been speaking out for the first time since being forced out of office four years over by the Police Service Commission (PSC) “in the public interest.”

In an extensive interview with Barbados TODAY at his residence on Friday, Dottin, who last month lost his request to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) for special leave to appeal his removal, weighed in on a range of burning issues including promotions in the force, gun crime, gangs, police morale, leadership in the force and Government.

Barbados TODAY provides part one of an edited version of that one-hour interview conducted by Emmanuel Joseph.

Q. What is your perspective on the crime situation in Barbados, particularly in relation to the upsurge in firearms crime?

A. I would say it’s quite troubling. The prevalence of firearms crime in particular, given the public fear and anxiety that it has caused. And there are wider implications for the country. I must say, though, we’ve had spikes before, but this one is a little bit troubling in that it seems to be quite pervasive and wide-ranging. So that is a cause for concern.

In terms of what drives it, I believe and certainly from my own experience, it’s the distribution of drugs and, of course, it moves on to other crimes like robbery. And in relation to the distribution of drugs, there are often disputes with rival groups over drug trafficking issues and sometimes there are also personal disputes that then result in group violence. People who are involved in these activities may have their personal disputes…they may feel they are disrespected by some of their peers or they react to perceived slights.  I know people would say that in many years gone by, people settled their disputes by using their fists or by rocks or whatever, but they tend to use firearms these days.

Former Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin.

From my experience, I think that there is also a gun culture that has developed in the country where guns have become almost a status symbol where young men in particular use them [to get] respect and decide power.  So those are the difficulties.

We know, and I’m speaking about my own experience as Commissioner… and I’m saying that we know the locations, we know the communities that are involved. Over time, we map these communities. Essentially they are inner city communities, but more and more there are some rural communities that are involved in these activities…and these tend to have some association with the distribution of drugs. And we did that for a reason because we think that is the root of the problem…these locations that have these communities that have these particular difficulties.

And we also know those people that are involved…the prime movers behind these activities and it is quite easy then follow, to what I call the go-fors…the people who act on behalf of the prime movers. And there are certain enablers as I call them for this activity as well. Most of these communities suffer significant social disadvantage so that is an issue that has to be taken into account. There is also some hedonistic behaviour…people commit crime for pleasure or for gain to follow a particular life style…people talk about the big ride. In terms of the response…from what I have just said, you see the problem is multi-faceted and so I think that the response also has to be multi-faceted, all-encompassing. It has to have a social dimension. I don’t know if you have done it… but if you visit or walk the districts I speak about…the inner city communities, you will see the social disadvantage. So a lot of these young people are ripe for use or misuse by the people that foster this type of activity.  It’s almost exploitation that is at play here.  So that is an issue that has to be taken into account.

We traditionally had very strong legislation dealing with firearms crime and that has to continue. Sometimes when things are going nice and easy, there tends to be a desire or talk about legislation being too draconian and so on. I remember in particular debate over whether somebody should suffer penalties for having just one bullet. But the fact is that a firearm is a completely harmless implement unless you have bullets.  So I think the legislation has to be tough and when people are brought before the court for firearms crime, I think that these matters have to be adjudicated swiftly. It makes no sense having these matters languishing for four and five years because the deterrent effect is affected.

And also there is a law enforcement dimension. Very important. I have found that dealing with these from a law enforcement perspective, is that intelligence is at the core of the response. You have to have actionable or what I call tactical intelligence in order to deal with a lot of these issues that are cropping up; and they have helped us in the past to deal with these issues…who are the perpetrators and so. I can give you examples. I don’t want to be alarmist. I am being very conservative in my comments, but there are several incidents that we have not spoken about where we have used intelligence to deal with these sorts of things developing in the country. You also have to use intelligence for a strategic purpose.

I am hearing about the growth of gangs. It is really pretty alarming to have 16 gangs in a small locale in the Black Rock area.  Obviously that did not develop overnight.  And the intelligence could have picked that up and it should have been fed to the policymakers such that it could have been a policy response to that. And while I am on that, I think we have to move away from being a crisis society. Whenever there is an upsurge in crime, I think that we have to find debates . . . as what we should do. We forget about a lot of these issues and don’t deal with them. You are saying that in certain communities there are so many gangs. I think that it requires a policy response that needs to be followed through.

I would say as well that there are systems in place at the moment that over time, we saw that there were particular situations developing and we spoke to the Government of the day about them and so there were responses. And so there were systems in place to deal with these issues. I don’t want to mention them. I don’t want to speak about them for obvious reasons, but they would deal with the question of our borders, the question of the importation of firearms and so on. And I think that we have to leverage these systems and make them work.  They are there. I think that we have to use them.

The other matter too is how the force organizes itself to deal with these matters.   I know there were certain units with specific responsibilities. I can’t speak to the extent to which they do work or don’t work at the moment. But these were well thought out and I also think that the results are there for everyone to see.  The leadership of the force has to take a look at these systems…the units and so on that have served us well and try to leverage them. I would say and I hope that I am not being alarmist, that there are some events that have had an unsettling effect on the force. You know there are several acting positions in the force flowing from the suit that officers brought resulting from their non-promotion. That has to be looked at. As I said, it has had an unsettling effect on the force. Certain officers with skills, training, of course, with tremendous experience, might have been moved from some of the units. An organization like the force cannot easily absorb that type of instability. And it has to be looked at.

The other matter is inter-agency working. The Royal Barbados Police Force is perhaps the lead agency but on its own, it cannot discharge the mandate of dealing with these issues and so in the past, there was a very strong relationship and inter-agency working with Customs, with Immigration and the Barbados Coast Guard. I think that primacy has to be given to this issue of inter-agency working. So I am advocating this overarching strategy with all the law enforcement agencies working together as they have done in the past.

And I must say that there were times that it was as a result of overtures by the Customs Department at the time that a Memorandum of Understanding was drawn up between the Force and the Customs Department. In those days, the Customs Department had a very powerful enforcement unit. I would love to see us go back to a situation like that where the Customs Department fulfill its responsibility as a law enforcement agency and be part of an inter-agency initiative to address some of these matters.

Q. The [Acting] Commissioner [Tyrone Griffith] has been saying, in not so many words, they [Customs] are not cooperating and he wants cooperation from the same Customs; and given what you said, there seem to be some breakdown.

 A. I wouldn’t want to say anything further on that. I just want to emphasize the importance of an inter-agency approach to the extent there may be roadblocks or obstacles, that they have to be removed such that the agencies can work in collaboration. I know that it has worked and if it has worked in the past, it can work now to deal with the ongoing difficulties we experience.

Q. Earlier you said when you were there, you were able to map out these areas where the movers are and how come, if we know where they are, we can’t take them up and take them before the court?

 A. I can only tell you what was done in the past.  The matter of law enforcement can never be ad hoc.  You can never have ad hoc approach to these things; you have to study them carefully and come up with responses to deal with it.  You cannot deal with the issue of crime, disorder and particularly firearms crime unless you actually know what is happening.  And I am saying, as a response at that time, all of these areas were mapped and I know that the prime movers and so on, they were identified.  And once this happened, it was just a small step away from having your tactical responses and so on; and as I said, those communities that suffer what I describe as social disadvantage and so on…and then the particular approach and intervention would have to be made.  As I said, it has to be a multi-faceted strategy that has to be taken into account.

 I would have to say too that Barbadians want immediate relief from the paralyzing fear that these incidents have caused.  And there are obviously some immediate steps that can be taken. Some other issues are more medium term and long term. But even if there is some amelioration tomorrow, it does not negate the fact that these are issues that have to be worked on over time and to forestall the next outbreak because these matters are continuing. And keeping the peace, fighting crime and making the community safe is an ongoing activity involving all the players.

 Q. What are some of the immediate steps that can be taken?

 A. Of course, I mentioned some of the tactical stuff and so on. If I comment further, I would go into too much detail and I don’t want to do this. The people in law enforcement know what they are, the people at the policy level know what they are and so I think that they have to be leveraged in order to deal with the ongoing issue.

 Q. Let’s take your issue[his forced removal and the PSC’s rejection of his promotions list]. You said it had caused an unsettling situation in the force. The issue with the appointments and the acting posts. How do you see that changing going forward?

 A. First, the issue with the officers [who were not promoted]. I often say that a lot of these officers were very, very skilled, very well trained and holding important positions in the force. People sometimes do not have an appreciation for the complexity of the police force. In order to exercise and carry out its mandate, there are a number of skills and so you have specialist units, some of them are what I may call elite units, some of them do a lot of the heavy lifting and so they feel that when there are rewards to be issued, that they need to be considered. And there also has to be internal equity in the force. You have all of these units and you need to show through promotion strategies and all of the inducements that you are able to give them that you are considering them. But I believe what has happened is that some of these officers have been side-lined and their skills are not being brought to bear on the particular issues and I think that this is unfortunate. And so these matters have to be settled.

My own position [removal]. You know that I was forcibly removed before my official retirement. The matter still has to come before the court. The interlocutory matter has been dealt with and the substantive matter is still to be heard. I often have to not respond…I face a lot of questions from the public and people who I normally meet asking what has happened. I don’t think the reason for my removal has been fully explained to Barbadians and I have not said anything publicly about it as well, mainly because the court has sealed my response to these matters. But at some time I will have an opportunity to speak on these matters such that Barbadians can understand what took place.

(The conclusion in Wednesday’s epaper)

6 Responses to Dottin breaks silence

  1. Johnathan August 15, 2017 at 10:57 pm

    Hope we hear about the man under you who figured he should have Commissioner because he was a known DEM and DEMS were in power. He under mined and had his own list of promotions because he had the support of the disrespect former members of the Force who formed part of the Police Commission and used it as well to under mine.

    Reply
  2. hcalndre August 15, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    You said that Dottin was the former Commish but this photo looks like he`s still the Commish. Was it a good idea to use that photo knowing that Mr. Dottin is no longer a member of the RBPF?

    Reply
  3. Real Bajan August 15, 2017 at 11:57 pm

    There is nothing wrong with the picture. The picture has a caption.

    Reply
  4. Real Bajan August 16, 2017 at 12:08 am

    Customs all over the world are law-enforcement agencies. Here in B’dos some persons want to relegate ours to a revenue collecting agency. The police at the airport goes into a customs area and pull passengers and luggage to search them. Total disrespect! the procedure is the police inform the Customs supervisor, the passenger and luggage is pulled and searched. If the police had follow these procedures, the Jamaican lady would not have been able to sue the B’dos government.

    Thank you Commissioner Dottin for your support of the Customs department.

    Reply
  5. Wayne Webster August 16, 2017 at 12:49 am

    Barbados Today and Mr Dottin are to be highly commended for these revelations which are no surprise to many who know full well how certain “things” work in Barbados.

    No Police Force can serve a country properly if political interference is involved. I sincerely hope that others in the know can step forward…but don’t hold your breath.

    This is not about Mr Dottin. I hope we all see THE BIG PICTURE.

    Reply
    • Carson C Cadogan August 16, 2017 at 8:15 am

      Don’t talk nonsense.

      How did Dottin become Commissioner?

      Was Dottin next in line when the Barbados Labour Party made him Commissioner?

      Do your research before you speak. Talking about “”…political interference””. Is that MIA AMOR MOTTLEY’S father who is representing Dottin?

      Reply

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