Editorial: A tour of squalor

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The video spread like wildfire.  Many who sent it penned a message which warned that “if you do not have a strong stomach then do not look.”  It may have been a teaser to make people look, but after viewing, it is obviously a genuine warning. The video, in case you are one of the few that has not seen it, gives a tour of the bathroom and toilet facilities at the St. John’s Police Station.
To say that the conditions are deplorable is an understatement and would be a leading candidate for ‘understatement of the year’ award if one existed.  In fact, the young man who hosts the tour of the bathroom facilities sums up the conditions well when he says, “this is not a place that human beings should be kept … not even animals!” adding, “just the scent of this area alone will kill you!”
The tour begins with the guide pointing out the lumps of human faeces scattered on the ground and in discarded food containers throughout the area.  It quickly moves to two bathroom stalls containing a dark pool of water and more faecal matter, with styrofoam containers floating among the waste. Our host uses more colourful and probably appropriate language to describe what is being recorded but we have restrained ourselves so that we do not run afoul of the decency police.  There are no showerheads and no taps to control the water in these abandoned showers which now function as open pit toilets.
As he moves the camera around, he briefly shows two toilet stalls, except they have no toilets, just more containers and excreta.  As he continues the tour, he gingerly walks through a flooded floor which appears to be caused by a broken pipe gushing water from the wall in an area that may have been for urinals.  With our gag reflexes in check, we had to wonder at the bravery of this young man to walk through the area in slippers.
The tour continues through an area that seems to be riddled with mold, before reaching the other shower stalls on the other side.  As you have seen, or can imagine, the two stalls on the other side are in the same disturbing condition. Dark pools of waste operating as open septic pits.  The only two toilets seen in the video are in an utterly unsanitary state and obviously not functioning. Our tour guide is clearly disgusted with the situation and asks people to share and comment on the video.  
We would like to compliment the young man in the video for bringing these disgraceful conditions to light.  We need citizens to highlight the issues that plague our nation and stand-up where they see wrongs. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye and nose to situations like these; for if we do, bad will be become worse.
These and other conditions have led to threats of lawsuits from at least two men who were detained at the St. John’s Police Station.  Brandon Christian, who was held in a cell for three and a half days described the conditions as rodent-and-insect-infested, littered with faeces and garbage, and flooded with urine. He was so moved by the conditions and his treatment that he “broke down and cried after seeing how cruel people is in this world.”  Another young man gave a similar account of the conditions and said that his stay left him with lingering medical issues.
Meanwhile, the minister responsible for public safety, Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin has said that he was unaware that the problems were so grave.  He was completely ignorant of the seriousness of the matter until OBSERVER contacted him. How can that be? Just earlier this year, the minister claimed that he had heard the pleas of the officers at the same station and was so moved, he offered to shoulder the cost of financing “whatever” repairs were needed.  A promise he later withdrew. Are we to understand that the minister that is responsible for the police has no idea what conditions the police endure on a day-to-day basis? Doesn’t the Commissioner of Police know of these conditions? There is no good answer to that last question. He either knows, and does nothing (not even inform the minister), or he does not know the prevailing conditions at some of his stations.  
In any case, Benjamin seems to have washed his hands of the matter.  He said that he would speak with his colleague, Maria Bird-Browne who was recently appointed Minister of State in the Ministry of Public Safety, Legal Affairs and Labour so that she can look into the matter.  Welcome to the world of politics, Minister Bird-Browne. Your first official duty is to clean the washrooms at the St. John’s Police Station. Enjoy!
The sad take-away from all of this is that it would appear that, like the situation at Clarevue Psychiatric Hospital, no one cares.  Is it any wonder that the morale in the police force is low? How can those in charge allow the situation to get this bad? This is not something that happened overnight.  This would be the result of neglect over a very long time. Where is the accountability? Will there be any repercussions? Will there be any consequences for anyone? We will wait and see but we will not hold our breath.

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