EDITORIAL - Support needed for police
The matter of crime and violence and how to best deal with it are issues that have long confronted governments and law enforcement agencies across the world, and Barbados is no exception.
Over the last year, such has been on our minds even more, given the over 45 murders and numerous gun-related crimes recorded during the year, and the repeated calls for something to be done to curb what seemed to be an escalating problem. However, though murders were on the rise, police officials says that other categories of major crimes actually fell. So for that, the men and women of the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) should be commended.
But with our murder figures so high and shooting incidents occurring on a regular basis, every effort must be made to determine what is at the root of these crimes, so that we can decide what steps should be taken to address them. Whether we want to admit it or not, much of the crime and violence we see stem from the social and economic challenges we have been experiencing, and while the economy appears to be clawing its way back, the process is a long one and not everyone will see the benefits at the same time. As such, many persons are still finding it difficult to secure gainful employment, people in general are finding it hard to make ends meet, and there has been a breakdown in our moral and social values.
This growing lack of moral and social values has so permeated our society, that many people nowadays have no regard for the rule of law or each other. For that reason, we believe there is a growing need for programmes and activities in our communities to engage more people, especially the youth, helping to ensure we instil in them the values our foreparents held dear. So it is clear that we cannot turn a blind eye to these issues and we must embrace a whole-of-society approach to getting the country back on track socially and economically.
As part of that effort we must also get the RBPF up to scratch. This is not meant to suggest that the Force does not do a good job, because in the trying circumstances they do. But at the same time, we all know they can do better if they had the requisite number of officers and various technological tools to boot. Sadly, this manpower shortage that exists today is really nothing new. The same complaints were made under the former administration and then there was even talk of possibly recruiting officers from abroad, as other countries have done. At that time, it was said that the challenge with manpower was not for a want of trying, but that the quality of persons stepping forward was not matching what the Force required.
In July 2018 we heard there were a whopping 241 vacancies in the Force. Last week it was said that the Force needed a complement of 1528 officers, they remained short by 261 – 20 more than were needed less than two years ago. Certainly then we agree with Attorney General Dale Marshall that efforts must be made to make policing attractive to more law-abiding Barbadians, and we believe that would include raising the pay scale – the pay must be commensurate with putting their lives on the line daily.
But, we go a step further and say that if they continue to come up short in their recruitment drives, the authorities may have to seriously consider recruiting from outside these shores. Perhaps too the Force would have to engage in greater use of technology, including CCTV cameras, of which numerous have been erected of late, to help make up for the shortfall.