Trust and confidence

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There are two things that make up the foundation of the relationship between the police and the public and they are captured in the title of this piece: trust and confidence.  In fact, those two are the foundation of any mutually beneficial relationship.  The people must trust that the police will ‘serve and protect’ and they must also have confidence in the ability of the police to fulfill their responsibilities.
You have heard us describe the relationship between the police and the public as a marriage and it takes strong dedication from both sides to make any marriage work.  Marriages are also built on trust and confidence, so it is easy to see how those characteristics apply.
We are strong supporters of the Royal Police Force of Antigua & Barbuda (RPFAB) and we do not shy away from making that statement even when the going gets tough.  And just like in a marriage, we feel that it is our obligation, as part of that union, to provide advice when necessary so that the marriage can be strengthened.
The release of the 2016 crime statistics has highlighted the fact that the foundation of this marriage needs some shoring up.  From the public’s response to the crime statistics, it is clear that the trust and confidence in the police have suffered and that steps must be taken to remedy the situation before it gets closer to a separation; or worse, a divorce.
No matter how the statistics are presented or explained, the public does not share the police’s enthusiasm that crime has dropped 15 per cent.  On one hand, there are many who do not trust the statistics, and on the other hand, many of those that may trust the statistics point out that they show a decrease simply because people are no longer reporting certain crimes because they have no confidence that the police will care to investigate, let alone solve crimes.
There is no need to pick apart the statistics, for that has been done already.  Rather, we will use one example from those statistics to demonstrate our point. The police reported only 16 cases of praedial larceny last year.  The response from every farmer we talked to could be described as disbelief bordering on disgust.  One farmer said, “maybe dey mean 16 per day!”
In defense of the statistics, the police have said that they can only report on and investigate what has been reported to them.  That is a fair comment, but in reality, it points out that farmers have lost all confidence that the police are able to provide the protection that they need.   Many have told us that there is no use even reporting theft at their farms because the police do not seem to care.  They report that it is useless to make a report because all that they get in response are excuses or ‘attitude’.
They say that they are tired of hearing about “no transportation” or being asked “how can we identify your produce?” to the point where they do not trust that the police care nor do they have any confidence that the police will do anything to assist.
This is really an unfortunate situation because, while that represents just a small segment of people in our bit of paradise, those feelings have seemingly permeated much of society.   We hear with increasing frequency that people are not reporting crime because of similar trust and confidence issues.   It has reached a point where people say that, “it is not worth it.”
It is at this point that we must stop and reevaluate the marriage.  We need to seek some counseling and we need to be willing to listen to one another, no matter how tough the talk gets.  This is a marriage that is worth saving … no. This is a marriage that must be saved!
To this end, there must be the establishment of clear lines of communications.  Expectations must be set and met.  For example, in the case of the farmers, a cooperative task force should be set up to facilitate a discussion on the ways that the police can help with the limited resources that are available to them.  If transportation is an issue, then maybe there can be an arrangement where officers make themselves available and the farmers provide transportation to the scene of the crime.  It is not the ideal solution, but life is not ideal.
The force must also make efforts to deal with the public’s perceptions.  In the case of criminal statistics, it would help tremendously if there were some independent oversight so that the trust can be built up.  At the extreme end, there are people who completely dismiss the crime statistics as being “made up” and nothing more than propaganda.  And while that is an extreme view, it demonstrates that people have a hard time trusting reports when organizations grade themselves.  It falls into the category of “yuh cyan trust ratta to watch cheese”.
The long and short of this story is that we need the police as much as they need us.  This is a marriage!   We need to understand their limitations and they need to meet our expectations.  The only way to achieve this is through a greater degree of trust and confidence.  Let us all commit to building that foundation now.
We leave you with five recommendations from a United States Department of Justice publication entitled “Why Police-Community Relationships Are Important”.   The report centers on the building of trust between the police and community, and was compiled in the shadow of incidents that caused many communities to question the legitimacy of the police.  The following are some of the key issues and recommendations that were identified during a meeting of police and community leaders that were established “to develop collaborative strategies for moving forward.”

  1. Acknowledge and discuss with your communities the challenges you are facing.
  2. Be transparent and accountable.
  3. Take steps to reduce bias and improve cultural competency.
  4. Maintain focus on the importance of collaboration, and be visible in the community.
  5. Promote internal diversity and ensure professional growth opportunities.

All, you would have to agree, are applicable to some degree, to our diverse bit of paradise.

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