Former police commissioner supports police conducting surveillance

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A former Commissioner of Police in St Kitts-Nevis said there’s nothing barring police from conducting surveillance at public meetings, once it is within the law.
Last week, Vice President of The Movement Cleon Athill and some residents criticised the police for carrying out surveillance at one of the group’s public meetings.
In an ongoing trial in the All Saints Magistrate’s Court against two members of The Movement who are accused of battery of a police officer during a meeting, the virtual complainant disclosed that he was at the meeting to gather intelligence.
But Dr Celvin G Walwyn said the police have a right to gather intelligence.
“As long as they are not wire-tapping your phones without a court order, as long as they are not coming into your home to get the information like through your television or through your laptop without a court order, then if they are not doing all these things than showing up at a meeting that is opened to the public then that’s not an issue,” he told The Big Issues.
Dr Walwyn said the police, with reason, can monitor a person or group in the interest of national security, to prevent incidents that put the public at risk.
But Attorney Warren Cassell said section 23 of the Police Act speaks specifically to the duties of the police force, but does not outline surveillance of citizens.
“Unless I am misinterpreting it, but I don’t see anything that gives the police the authority, because everything must have a legal basis. If you are going to do something there must be a legal basis. So your first stop would be the Police Act which says it is to preserve the peace and prevent and detect crime. When you look at that section … it is not the duty of the police to be gathering intelligence because it will open the floodgates for invasion of privacy,” Cassell said.
Meanwhile, Political Analyst Dr David Hinds said that police surveillance of groups such as The Movement has the potential of preventing people from freely expressing themselves due to fear.
Dr Hinds also said the police have a challenge in balancing the security of a nation and protecting civil liberties.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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