Turning A New Leaf

Antiguans and Barbudans were more than pleased to hear that people have either been questioned or remanded or charged for engaging in violent criminal activities and even more importantly that 11 of the 16 killings that took place in 2009 have been “solved.”

Several factors would have contributed to this scenario. Some would attribute it to the $7 million communications system that came on stream after Carnival last year; the new E911 emergency system and the fulfillment of the more than 66 recommendations of the Alphonse Breau report.

Those recommendations included the replacement of the top cops with four former Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers, increased wages, ongoing training for officers, re-organisation of the structure of the force, improved working conditions, supplying officers with the necessary tools and proper safety equipment to perform their duties, among others.

Breau’s report revealed that the morale among the officers was at an all time low for wide and varied reasons. This resulted in disgruntlement and feelings of lack of appreciation from their supervisors, as well as the public and was manifested in a flexing of muscles at every opportunity, thus further aggravating the tenuous relationship with the public.

What in effect the implementation of the recommendations seem to have done is to improve morale among the officers, which in turn has had a positive impact on the quality of work they produce and its concomitant result of a more positive relationship with the public.

However, we posit that the most important factor in this state of affairs is the role that the public has begun to play in helping to solve crime in this twin-island state.

We would, of necessity, have to concede that the introduction of Crime Stoppers, which facilitates persons giving tips anonymously to the police, is playing an effective part in solving open cases or some that might have gone cold. However, there seems to be a dent in the distrust that had been allowed to fester between the lawmen and members of the community.

We’ve heard, ad nauseam, through this medium and on the airwaves that cops cannot be everywhere when crimes are committed, therefore, it is the role of citizens and residents to share any information with the Criminal Investigations Department if these crimes are to be prevented or solved.

While some criminals whose IQs are off the chart are able to hide their activities from relatives, friends and in some cases, significant others, the less sophisticated are not quite adept at this, so there is no doubt that someone, somewhere knows something that could be passed on to the police.

What might prevent this from happening could be that they are benefiting from the enterprises of these crooks; they might be living in a fool’s paradise thinking it could never happen to them; fear of reprisals from the perpetrators and most worrying of all, fear of the lawmen.

The age-old complaint has been that people are afraid to give information to police officers because they have learnt from hard experience or vicariously that that information somehow was transmitted to the perpetrators and lives were threatened or lost.

It is customary to hear appeals coming from one officer on the OBSERVER Radio’s Snakepit programme to the public, in his efforts to do damage control, to bring information to him if they are afraid of speaking to other lawmen on the force.

The question then is, what has contributed to this seeming softening among members of the public to sharing tips with the lawmen?

This could be due to the fact that people are now convinced that criminals do not discriminate. They target the rich, poor, black, white, Syrian, Lebanese, religious and non-religious, young, old and in-between. No one or anything is sacred anymore, not even our churches.

Additionally, the initial opposition to the Canadian Mounties has subsided as the public continues to see that crimes, especially the violent ones, are being solved.

Commissioner of Police Thomas Bennett used the opportunity during his Christmas message to thank the public for its support and assistance in helping the police bring criminals to justice.

If this is an indication that the public and cops are turning a new leaf in their relationship, it can only bode well for the society as a whole and will therefore be a leaf well turned.