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OPINION: We Must Support the Police

by: - July 13, 2017
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By: Alex Bruno

The problems of crime and violence will not go away by themselves. Such issues must be thoroughly addressed and dealt with conclusively in order that the current troubling trends on the island of Dominica are managed.

The uncharacteristic nature of the recent violent crimes and gruesome murders in Dominica should be a call to action. I rise to sound the alarm. Being acutely aware of the backlash that some before me had to endure by doing the same (calling attention to troubling trends of increased criminality and judicial irregularity in Dominica), I brace myself for similar treatment.

I am not deterred, however. This cause is not mine, I do it for tomorrow’s children and I respond to calling which is higher than those who will question my actions and motive for sounding the alarm. I certainly do this without fear, malice and ill-will and with the hope that this message finds a receptive ear…somewhere.

I remember, during Edison James’ tenure as Prime Minister of Dominica, he called for an arms amnesty and he was ridiculed by many, including opposition MPs. Of course that effort failed with only about a couple of guns surrendered.

A few quick years later, Dominica’s Honorable Minister for Security, Mr. Rayburn Blackmore, called for an arms amnesty and this call was ridiculed by opposition forces who reminded the Minister that his then opposition party did not support the James regime’s call for an amnesty.

The lesson here is: fighting crimes is not a party political pursuit. It is, instead, an all out effort tackled from several fronts. So, we must support the police because it is the sensible thing to do and I call upon the citizenry to heed the call for help from Dominica’s Chief of Police, Mr. Daniel Carbon, even while you lament the lack of forthrightness, in the case of the police.

As stated previously, the policing of society depends on the collaboration of several sectors to ensure its efficiency and the people or ‘community’ element serves as its foundation. This is so because “the people” are best at policing ‘us’ and those whom we set in office as custodians of our safety actually function for and on our behalf – or so they should.

Officers of the law are powerless if the people do not assist in the overall effort and the officers, who are themselves people, must stick to and with the people if their tasks must be performed effectively. When I refer to officers of the law, I am not limiting this to “police officers,” instead; this extends to ‘police,’ the magistracy, the judiciary and the entire Court system which includes government officials (especially the Minister of Justice and the Prime Minister), the Clergy, organized social civic organizations and YOU!

The point has been made, but there are certain dynamics at play which must be explored, so bear with me as I try to connect the pieces before I conclude.

We need peace in Dominica, but for peace to be realized there must be justice. Peter Tosh says “everyone is crying out for peace, yes
none is crying out for justice,” so I stand on the side of justice driven peace because I have confidence that Tosh’s message seems practical.

It has been seen that lawlessness pervades in societies where there is a breakdown in trust between law enforcement and citizens. In failed societies, where there is widespread systematic or institutionalized corruption, and where there is a general disconnect between rich and poor, lawlessness reigns supreme. Now, I am not suggesting that Dominica is a failed state, but there are obvious strong and troubling elements of judicial improprieties on the Dominican landscape which if not addressed as soon as it is possible, may land this blessed nation in social turmoil and on the doorsteps of civic chaos reminiscent of failed states.

When there are inequitable measures of the distribution of justice; and when the systems or institutions of state seemingly favour the perpetrators of white collar crimes and politically influential players; and when the same system severely punishes the ordinary man for petty crimes, clashes are inevitable. When partisan insularity and nepotism are added to the mix, the problem is exacerbated. The people have been crying out for justice and the several high profile matters which somehow get stuck in the Court system, or dismissed, or end in favor of the high and mighty on matters of “technically,” adds urgency to the cause.

In light of the recent spate of violent crimes on the island of Dominica, which include 13 reported murders from January – July 2017, it is incumbent on all of us to make an effort at confronting the issue. This has gotten to the point where well-intended citizens should stop playing it safe in the name of political expediencies. The stakes are much too high here and now and frankly, it is against my principles to hide beneath the transparent cover of political neutrality, in fear of whom? What?

I remember discussing the horrors of ‘corrupted police systems’ with Ron Burke, a noted and very well accomplished Jamaican Radio/Media Broadcaster who warned that we (Dominicans) should “keep Dominica the way it is/(was);” begging, in his words: “Alex, this place is a paradise when it come to crimes and violence, please, Alex, don’t let this island go down the path of Jamaica with political corruption because that will in turn drive up the crime rates and when that becomes the case, the country spoil…lard gad, Alex.” At the time, Burke was a regular guest on Diaspora Link, a radio program aired on D.B.S Radio from 1999. Where are we now?

Ron also spoke of ‘Vigilante Justice’ which was prevalent in Jamaica, stating that this was a benchmark of a ‘corrupt police system’ and warned that if this were to reach our Dominican shores, we should begin to panic because things could very quickly go down-hill from there. Where are we now?

Let me say here and now that citizens should never take the law into their own hands because they (that solitary citizen or group of citizens) are not the law. The ‘Law’ is a community effort to protect the people, all of the people, in equal measures. The ‘Law’ protects us against others and ourselves because in our fallible state, humans sometimes deviate from society’s designated path(s) and hence the law is there to keep us in check.

Here is my recommendation: we do not fight crimes; we solve them or proactively try and stop them from occurring. Fight connotes a combative activity which if applied to deviant actions will only result in a bigger or greater fight. I call for more peace officers and less weapons in the land. I call for the establishment of a peace brigade from among disenfranchised factions. The subtle ideological, spiritual, philosophical, cultural and/or political disconnect which currently a plague Dominica needs to be addressed. No one person or group of people can design that fix, but together we may be able come up with a solution.

No longer can citizens stand aside and pretend that we do not have a crime problem because we do! Ours is a nation on the crossroads. Dominica is shouting for attention, crying tears of blood and we need to stop the haemorrhaging. Let us gather round the table and talk with each other, not at each other. We must support the police, because you are the police. If you won’t support you, how then do you expect someone else to do it?

Let this day mark a new chapter in Dominica. A day when we take up the mantle and deal with issues plaguing our nation’s criminal justice system. Knowing that no one is above the law and that the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land, no one is Supreme and as such the long arms of the law should spare no one. Each citizen is intricately bound to the other through our individual rights and collective responsibilities. With rights come responsibilities and it is our right to respect other people’s rights…again I say we must support the police.

Depoliticizing a governing system is impossible because politics is what drives such systems, but moves must be made to manage the levels of corruption which no doubt exist throughout the operation apparatus of the Dominican society – including the police. The longer we hide our heads in the sand is the more the problem will be exposed. Let us not wait until a violent crime comes knocking at our door before we speak. We have no time to lose…now is the time for action.

The next generations of Dominica demand that we take action. I end with the words of Nelson Mandela: “let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves.” Peace.