Police officers lament stations ‘not fit even for animals’

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Imagine going to work in an office without proper toilets, or having to hop and skip to avoid contact with the sewage water that drips from a broken wastewater pipe on the floor above your office, or being told that there are no uniforms or shoes available for distribution when your job requires you to wear a uniform.

Then, imagine the office where you work is infested with mosquitoes, and some days there’s no running water in the building which is very hot, dirty and poorly maintained.

Police officers stationed at several posts across the island, including Police Headquarters, do not have to imagine any of the above. It is their reality, and they are begging the government to do something about these conditions which persisted for far too long.

“This is not about politics, because the first thing people will want to say is that it is politics. This thing has been happening to us at Police Headquarters for a long, long time. The place is nasty and no human being should have to experience that,” said one constable yesterday.

He was one of several police officers who spoke on condition of anonymity, breaking their silence in defiance of rules forbidding them from speaking with the media without authorisation from higher-ups.

“The Welfare is non-existent. Nobody is looking out for us, and we are living and working under conditions not even fit for animals,” he added.

A check with a colleague, a corporal with over a decade’s service, confirmed the complaint.

This junior ranked officer lamented, “Living conditions at the stations have been deplorable prior to the elections of 2014. However, since 2014 things have gone from bad to worse and that resulted in the closure of the Bolans Police Station; everybody shifted to Johnsons Point Police Station. The Willikies Police Station had to be relocated. Parham is in no better shape than Willikies.”

Additionally, he said, “At Police Headquarters living conditions are deplorable, not fit for animal habitation, [much less] for human beings. The toilets are in a state of disrepair. The barracks are just not good. At the main building, at headquarters itself, there is a waste water pipe where, when the toilet is flushed, the water drips right into the storeroom, so buckets have to be there and you have to be careful how you’re walking because you don’t want the sewage water dripping on you.”

When asked whether these concerns were raised with the Police Welfare Association and the police hierarchy, including Acting Commissioner Atlee Rodney, the officer said: “Yes, a long time ago.”

He contended that the association is “dead” and that it has not held elections since 2014 and “we are into the fifth year with no elections”.

The officer also said the situation is now beyond reporting to the acting top cop who “has not been able to get anything done” about the conditions since taking up the post in May last year.

“In fact, since then, the situation has gone from bad to worse” and the officers are now dipping into their own pockets to purchase uniforms [or] to sew their uniforms and shoes.

The shortage of uniforms is not something new, another officer said. But he indicated that the Commissioner of Police, Wendel Robinson, who remains on suspension since May 2018, had sourced sewing machines for the police force and a unit was set up to sew uniforms, utilising the skills of those in the force who can sew.

“But with no materials there is nothing for them to do, no uniforms for us,” the cop said.

As it relates to the water situation, other police officers said St. John’s Police Station relies on tanks, Headquarters hardly gets, and the other stations face the same problem of inconsistent supply.

Acting Commissioner of Police Rodney yesterday confirmed he is aware of the majority of the issues complained of by the officers – except the leaking sewage pipe at headquarters.

He said he would look into that matter and work towards getting it fixed.

He noted that the other problems reported have been plaguing the stations across the country for as long as he could remember in his 37 years in the force.

The government recently advised it would get as many of the issues fixed by the end of April.

Rodney pointed out that just yesterday the keys were handed over for new facilities/accommodation for the Criminal Investigations Department located near the St. John’s Police Station.

The police chief said the improvements will come “a little at a time” and he will continue to press for them.

He recalled that in his end-of-year message for 2018, he commented on the state of the police facilities and said the conditions can impact morale and cause ill health.

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