The recent complaint made by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) concerning the attendance at its private party meetings by members of the Special Branch of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) raises serious questions about the lack of training by some of the men and women in uniform.
A police force that is worth its salt will not allow members of the branch to expose themselves unnecessary to the public.
As far as THE NEW TODAY is concerned the public should not know who are the members of the unit since their primary role is to engage in espionage and information gathering for the State to ensure its safety and protection.
The better approach for members of the Special Branch was to attempt to recruit someone within the NDC to pass on information and not to be seen or caught openly trying to tape-record their proceedings.
Indeed, should the Special Branch of a country be preoccupied with spying on the activities of political opponents of the government of the day? Isn’t that a waste of taxpayers’ money?
This newspaper would much prefer to see the party in power use its own resources to spy on political opponents and do not use already scarce taxpayers money for such purposes.
This does not mean to say that the Special Branch should not monitor the activities of political persons if they choose to get involved in subversive activities that threaten the democratic well-being of the State.
But it is rather clumsy to see a member of the branch exposing himself in such a vulgar manner to try to get into a private meeting of a political party and to tape the proceedings to pass on to the Chief of the Branch and then most likely to the Commissioner of Police and the Minister of National Security.
Part of the problem in Grenada is that quite a bit of the persons who are selected to work in our Special Branch lack serious training in matters of security.
Perhaps, this is one area in which the former Chief Bodyguard of slain Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop who has emerged as a top security official with the new government might like to offer some assistance to those in charge of the nation’s security.
THE NEW TODAY is not suggesting that the State should engage in unwarranted wire-tapping of the phones of decent, ordinary and law-abiding citizens.
In years gone by, the Special Branch of the police force was staffed with some of the best officers who were able to distinguish themselves in areas such as the Drug Squad and the Criminal Investigation Department.
“No Johnny Come Lately” would have been selected by those in charge of RGPF to become a member of the Special Branch if he had not been exposed to a certain level of training and had performed with some distinction on the job.
The last time the NDC had a problem with the Special Branch was in the weeks leading up to the July 2008 general election when the unit was headed by one Superintendent Anthony De Gale who is now back in the country from the United States with the advent of another term in office by Dr. Keith Mitchell.
The young officer who was caught in the act of placing a tape-recorder on the window seal of a building next to the then NDC head office on Lucas Street was a rookie who unfortunately ended up in such a sensitive position as a member of the branch.
A check into the background of the individual revealed that he was a mere Rural Constable who was taken into the force after Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and within a year or thereabout ended up as a member of this most sensitive and specialized unit in the force.
A serious Minister of National Security, armed with such information, would have called on the Commissioner of Police to explain how such an individual with little or no training could be a part of a serious Special Branch outfit.
What is also strange is that on both occasions in which the Special Branch was caught engaged in very clumsy spying on NDC, the man in the chair was Winston James as Commissioner of Police.
On the first occasion, he claimed to be totally unaware of the Lucas Street incident since the then head of the Special Branch, Supt De Gale was not reporting to him.
Acting Commissioner James has not made any public statement on the latest episode. It begs the questions – how much is he really in charge of RGPF? Secondly, if he is not in charge then who is really running the police force?
There is a feeling in some quarters that Mr. James is weak and ineffective and can easily be pushed around and that those police officers who are committed to “the green” are a law onto themselves.
This was apparently the case on the evening of February 19 when the NNP won the elections as those former Bodyguards of Prime Minister Mitchell resumed duties to look after him personally allegedly not on the instructions of the man in the chair – Commissioner Willan Thompson – but through some other means and methods.
There is definitely too much politics being played within RGPF resulting in the people of the country not getting value for money and being short-changed and being left the much poorer due to the actions and in-action of some persons who ought to know better in the force.
It appears that allegiance to either party colour is the route towards upward mobility within the police force and not performance and service to the country.
Grenada needs a professional Special Branch Unit and police force and Public Service as a whole that can serve any administration that takes charge of the nation’s affairs with credit and distinction.