Reform, revamp and support the Police Force

The Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) is in a state of serious crisis.

Following the victory of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in July 2008, Tillman Thomas embarked on a policy to de-politicise the RGPF.

As Minister of National Security, former Prime Minister Thomas made a deliberate effort to ensure that the police force operated as a respectable and independent institution.

He saw the force as a integral part of the nation’s democratic institutions and under Commissioner James Clarkson the RGPF operated free from political influence and interference. The RGPF gained the respect and admiration of the population and the force was at an all time high.

Following the resignation of Commissioner Clarkson, Willan Thompson was appointed Commissioner by the Public Service Commission in a transparent manner based on merit. He performed remarkably until he was unceremoniously removed by PM Mitchell in 2013 and replaced by Winston James, an alleged lackey of the PM.

Winston James was seen as someone who would do the bidding of the Prime Minister. Under Winston James, a number of officers who were dismissed for a host of offences were re-admitted into the force.

One such person is former NNP candidate Carl Caton and another is the notorious Anthony De Gale who rose through the ranks like a blaze of fire. It is speculated that he would one day become the new Commissioner of Police.

In 2008 one can recall the alleged spying on a NDC executive meeting by a young police officer under the command of Anthony De Gale.

Under the NNP administration of Keith Mitchell, allegations are that those officers who are aligned to his party are promoted indiscriminately, while those with a different philosophy are victimised. It is alleged that Mitchell and his lackeys operate a force within a force.

Any issue involving law enforcement officials whether in Grenada or elsewhere is critical for the maintenance of law and order. In the United States, racial tension between white police officers and Afro Americans has resulted in death and the destruction to property.

President Obama knows very well the serious implications of corruption on a nation’s development having grown up in Chicago, a city famous for the likes of Al Capone and his gang.

The recent arrest and charges brought against two senior members of the RGPF is not a surprise to anyone since the masses are fully aware of the irregularities within the force.

The two senior officers, it is alleged, are closely associated to the New National Party. The Prime Minister and Commissioner of Police should be held directly responsible for the level of corruption that has engulfed the RGPF.

President Obama on his recent visit to Kenya urged the Kenyan government to chose the path of progress by tackling corruption.

The President admonished the Kenyans to change their habits. He remarked that corruption holds back every aspect of economic and civil life. He sugguested/advised that the Kenyan government should fix its culture of discrimination and corruption.

This message from President Obama to the Kenyan government is most appropriate to the NNP administration of Keith Mitchell.

When senior members of the force are arrested and charged for corrupt practices it is very demoralising for the entire force and the masses.

As a result of these alleged actions by senior officers of the RGPF, the force will lose the trust and confidence of the population.

It is no secret that the majority of officers voted for the NNP in the last general elections. The arrest and charge of these two senior officers is a reflection of the malaise facing the RGPF. There are many hardworking and decent police officers who would prefer to do an honest day’s work instead of taking a bribe and we the people must show our support for these officers.

A dysfunctional police force will be very dangerous for the peace, security and stability of the country. Grenadians take pride in their safety, and security and so a functional and independent police force is critical and paramount.

Corruption in the police force by senior officers will undermine investor confidence in the country, undermine the judicial and legal system, business community and all other sectors of the economy.

Corruption in the police force will also promote and empower the drug lords and kingpins, international crooks and con men who are looking for these weak links in the security forces to ply their illegal trade.

Every ministry under the NNP administration is marred by allegations of corruption. The former Minister of Health, Claris Modeste-Curwen, is on record as condemning the alleged theft of equipment from that ministry.

The Ministry of Communication and Works has been the primary source of allegations of corruption in every NNP administration. From the construction of concrete roads to the construction of the first national stadium, this culture of corruption has metastasised fourfold.

The infestation of corruption within the security forces is the final straw that broke the camel’s back. The entire political career of Keith Mitchell has been marred by allegations of corruption. The infamous briefcase scandal and his famous quote, “Me damn money is mine,” will remain as a major stain on his legacy.

A fish starts to rot at its head and as such the Prime Minister has to take direct responsibility for what happens under his watch. As Minister of National Security the actions of senior police officers fall under his portfolio.

If the Prime Minister is serious about tackling corruption within his administration, promoting and advancing the rule of law, he has to take decisive action against rogue police officers, corrupt MPs and other public officials.

The Prime Minister has to lead by example. This may be very difficult for him to do given the extent of the levels of allegations of corruption that have been brought against him. Maybe, it is for this reason that senior police officers are of the belief that they have immunity and protection from their ‘Boss’.

Prime Minister Mitchell is under extreme pressure from the IMF. The nation’s economy is struggling with unemployment among the youths skyrocketing. Increased taxation on the middle class is making it extremely difficult to make ends meet.

The actions of the senior police officers are indicative of the problems that the middle class is experiencing.

President Obama, on his African tour, attacked corruption on the African continent head on. He castigated rulers who are bent on remaining in office for life.

In Malaysia, the Prime Minister has sacked his deputy after allegations of corruption surfaced against him. In Grenada, under the NNP administration, corruption seems to be the norm. The more corrupt an official is, the faster he is promoted within the hierarchy.

Corruption is like a vicious cancer and Grenada runs the risk of becoming one of the most corrupt countries in the Caribbean and the western world if decisive actions are not taken to root out this evil.

PM Mitchell needs to address corruption in his administration with an iron fist. This however, may be easier said than done given the alleged culture of corruption that has dogged him throughout his political career.

Major reforms are needed immediately within the Royal Grenada Police Force if the cancer of corruption  is to be eliminated. Strict rules of engagement need to be enforced. The confiscation of assets from rogue officers in a similar way that the assets of drug lords are confiscated needs to be made law.

There should be a policy of zero tolerance to corruption within the security forces,. Failure to address this cancer forcibly will see Grenada emerging as a failed state and a ‘banana republic’.

We have witnessed what corruption is doing to Zimbabwe under the long standing Robert Mugabe. Closer to our shores, the people of Jamaica and Haiti are feeling the negative impact of decades of corruption.

Poverty, unemployment, crime and violence are at an all time high. All these ills are perpetuated, aided and abetted by a corrupt police force. President Obama said it right when he warned the Kenyan government that “corruption holds back every aspect of economic and civil life”.

The path to progress is by tackling corruption.

This is so fitting especially for Grenada especially as the country struggles under an IMF structural adjustment program. With a national debt of over 2.5 billion dollars, Grenada can ill afford to have the resources of the state fleeced by politicians and public officials especially enforcers of the law.

The issue, however, facing the nation and its people is this – does Prime Minister Mitchell have the will power and in local parlance ‘the balls’ to address corruption in his administration? If one is to make a judgement based on history and experience, the answer is a resounding NO.

Given the extent of Grenada’s culture of corruption and the high tolerance level of the NNP administration and its supporters, this cancer will continue to spread unabated for the next two years.  Without such a change, the future of Grenada looks very bleak.

Corruption is so rampant in Grenada even the church and the diocese are affected by this cancer. Every sector of society is corrupted, the judiciary and legal services, court system, NGOs, the print and electronic media, business community, construction industry, public and private sector.

Many lawyers who fought against corruption in the NNP administration of 1995-2008 are now in bed sleeping and reaping financial gains under the same corrupt administration.

Mitchell and his NNP have been able to create a spider web of friends and foes working together for their own self interest and the country is paying a high price as a result of this unholy alliance.

President of the Senate, Chester Humphrey has gone dumb, deaf and blind overnight since he apparently got covered by the blood of corruption that he used to criticise in the past. Apparently, he is now drinking from the ‘cup of corruption’. May his God bless his soul.

Peter, Gilbert and Church are where they really belong. The people have to now take the responsibility for their own future since it is impossible to rely on corrupt officials to do so.

There is an inherent belief that whenever the NNP is in power there is a deliberate and systematic break down in law and order.

The NDC’s fundamental belief in transparency, accountability, good governance and the rule of law is the right path to Grenada’s sustainable economic growth and development. This will root out the cancer of corruption.

The electorate has to realise that they cannot vote for the same corrupt politicians and expect a different result. A paradigm shift is needed. Change is needed.

Grenadian Class

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