Editorial: Of praise, the police and the public

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Very often, the Royal Police Force of Antigua & Barbuda (RPFAB) take a lot of blows from the public.  Whether they are accused of being political puppets or just being inefficient, the public is always very willing to heap criticism on the backs of the police and rarely express any praise.
Today, we would like to openly praise the hard work of the police in the successful search and rescue operation for 68-year-old Frances Ann “Annie” Jules.  Specifically, we would like to applaud the fine work of the Canine (K-9) Unit which has been credited with finding Annie.  They should take a bow and we should all clap our hands in appreciation.
For those that did not follow the story, Annie left her home in the late morning on a Friday and did not return.  The authorities and the general public were notified and a search and rescue operation was launched.  According to a K-9 unit official, “We got an indication from somebody who saw her in the area some time Friday and once we got an idea of where she was, we got some clothing from the family members to use to create and odour picture. Then we went in the area and we are grateful for the canine because they helped us and lead us to finding her.”
This is a great story of the public and the police working together towards a happy ending.  Annie was found almost 48 hours after she disappeared.  She was tired and dehydrated but overall, she appeared in good health.  The picture of Annie on the back of Constable Julian DeCastro from the K-9 Unit is one for the ages – a poster for the ‘protect and serve’ motto that is widely associated with the police.
We could not allow this opportunity to pass without pointing out some of the advice from the police.  The K-9 official said that the efficiency of the dogs is best when the report is made early and there is some information about the general area where the person was last seen.  He cautioned that success is dependent on the weather conditions and how busy the area usually is.  We pass along this information because the police can only be as effective as their partners – the public.
The police’s Strategic Communications (STRATCOM) department emphasized the point while expressing gratitude to the K-9 Unit and the various groups that joined the search.  They said, “The general public is also advised to report missing family members to the police without delay, in order for the police to commence immediate search for these people.”
This is great information for the public and we encourage the police to establish a regular communication and education programme to strengthen the level of cooperation between the public and the police.  Often, we hear the police lament that the public is not forthcoming with information about crimes and while this incident is unrelated, it demonstrates what can be achieved if the police and the public work hand-in-hand.
There is no doubt that the police need to do some relationship building with the public but we would venture to say that most police forces around the world could do with some relationship building.  That being the case, this event shows us is that when the police and public work together the bonds are strengthened and respect is earned.  One need only listen to the praise given to the K-9 Unit and the reciprocal praise given to the volunteers and you would see that the potential is definitely there.  All it needs is some work on both sides and the river of praise will flow continuously.
To put the police’s relationship with the public into perspective, we turn to Sir Robert Peel.  A man who is regarded as the father of modern British policing and a two-time Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.  In 1829, Peel established the Metropolitan Police Force for London (based at Scotland Yard).  Although unpopular with the public in the early days, the police proved successful in cutting crime and garnered a sterling reputation.  In setting forth the principles of policing a democracy, Sir Robert declared, “The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”
Let us all pay attention to the wise words of Sir Robert Peel and realize that we are all one.

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