Former top police express confidence in the ability of the force

Former commissioner of police, Vere Browne
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By Kadeem Joseph

Former senior law enforcement officers have said that while the present rank and file are qualified to carry out important investigations, there is room to learn from extra-regional agencies.

Former commissioner of police, Vere Browne, speaking on the Big Issues programme on Sunday, said one of the areas in need of improvement is having a specific guideline under which investigations are managed.

“What we can learn and continue to learn from outside forces is that their forces have evolved, and they have put a lot of things in writing,” he said. “So, they have guidelines, procedures, directives, policies and standards in writing that cover investigation procedures, and these are based on their constitution and their criminal laws.”

Browne said these rules also hold officers accountable when these guidelines are breached, adding that in Antigua and Barbuda most investigation procedures are based on “experience and memory, we have very little in writing.”

His comments came after the government announced plans to employ the assistance of the United Kingdom-based Scotland Yard and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States in the closing the July 10 murder of Customs officer, Nigel Christian.

Christian was not only kidnapped, but later, his body was found with multiple bullet wounds in the New Winthorpes area, based on police reports.

Browne also compared how evidence is presented in court by officers in places like Canada and England versus here in Antigua and Barbuda.

“When those officers from Canada and England go to court, they will essentially read their evidence from their pocket book, so the chance of error is very small, while we in the Caribbean base so many things on memory and experience that you will go and repeat your evidence verbatim and if you make a mistake the case may be dismissed,” he explained.

The former commissioner said, however, on the issue of investigative skill and police procedures, local law enforcement “are on the same par with them (extra-regional agencies), if not higher.”

Meanwhile, former assistant commissioner of police, Nuffield Burnette, said most of the police forces in the region suffer from the same issue which is a lack of equipment.

“There is no body in the region that has certain equipment that could help us,” he said agreeing that the expertise to investigate crimes effectively and to interrogate suspects already exists within the force because officers receive training through these international agencies.

Burnette also rubbished criticisms that local law enforcement is unwelcoming of external help.

He also believes that the earlier in an investigation that this assistance can be sought, the better.

“What has been a concern for government is expense, and government in the past would determine  if we bring them in too early, the expense may be greater than if we bring them in further down… and that does not take away from our local expertise,” he said.

Speaking on the same programme, former president of the Caribbean Federation of Police Welfare Associations and present station sergeant in St Vincent and the Grenadines, Brenton Smith, said there is a lot that can be learned “in a practical sense” from the presence of international investigators on the ground.

He said that even if a breakthrough is not made in the case, officers would be able to use the experience and knowledge obtained in future investigations.

“The Antigua and Barbuda Police Force, and forces within the region have very competent persons, but we do not have the necessary equipment to deal with what is confronting us and we must not run from that,” he added.

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