Public Safety minister to fast track independent agency to ‘police the police’

Public Safety Minister, Steadroy Benjamin (Photo courtesy Caricom Today)
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By Orville Williams

The actions of the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda could come under more intense scrutiny in the near future, with the establishment of an independent body tasked with investigating complaints against its members.

Public Safety Minister Steadroy Benjamin disclosed in Parliament yesterday, that efforts would be made to get that body up and running in quick time.

“We intend to come back to Parliament shortly, to set up an independent body – outside of the police – to whom complaints can be made against police officers [and] to investigate matters made against police officers,” he said.

The police force currently has an internal structure in place that is responsible for investigating complaints of police misconduct. However, according to many social commentators and activists, the fear of a conflict of interest hovers over that system and they say many alleged incidents of police brutality go unpunished.

Benjamin told Observer in June last year, that the idea of such an independent body was being considered, following calls from former Commissioner of Police Vere Browne and attorney Warren Cassell.

Back then, both Browne and Cassell voiced the belief that the police should not be investigating matters involving their colleagues, with Cassell adding that “every single case [regarding allegations of police brutality] brought against police officers in an internal investigation where it does not involve a magistrate…can be challenged as not being independent”.

Benjamin apparently shares that view, also saying yesterday, “it is felt that police officers themselves ought not to form and be a part of a committee to investigate allegations against [fellow] police officers.

“[For that reason, the body] will be made up of independent persons outside the police force, so people cannot get the impression that police are investigating police. It must be an independent body in whom people can have faith and trust.”

Calls for an independent investigative body came to a head last year, following allegations that law enforcement personnel were responsible for the death of Bruce Greenaway. Greenaway’s body was found near Indian Creek in April 2020, and reports are that he was last seen alive in the presence of lawmen attached to the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda and the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force. 

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