Residents are concerned about the lack of progress by the local police service in apprehending one or more assailants responsible for at least four violent attacks on women in the Davy Hill community. Could the problem be deeper than this particular case?
A 2012 review of the Royal Montserrat Police Service (RMPS) found that while staffing numbers were adequate for the needs of the island, there were significant gaps in its operational procedures. The report also noted that “much more can be achieved through intelligence-led deployment strategies.”
The RMPS Review Report May 2012 also noted that the service needed resources both financial and technical to rectify some of its issues. Senior police officials have repeatedly spoken of their financial woes and inability to purchase a new marine boat, and acquire close circuit television among other things.
With the public and more so the female population concerned about the increase in violent crimes on island, is there a reason to be concerned that the warnings and recommendations in the 2012 report have not been heeded?
It is important to note that Montserrat boasts one of the lowest crime rates not only in the Caribbean but the world. However, that is no reason for the public to be without the best service possible at all times and while the police may be acing things in other areas, the safety of residents is now in question.
Deputy Commissioner Charles Thompson said on ZJB Radio on Monday morning that his team was fully capable of dealing with the policing needs of the island and the cases of assaults against women. However, his interview left many with more questions than answers and even more reasons to be alarmed.
A current request for the Governor to ask for support from the famed Scotland Yard was brushed off. But gaining support from the reputable force could serve Montserrat in several ways right now.
- Restore Confidence – Currently the populace does not feel confident that the local force can apprehend the attacker. The senior police official was not able to present any information to help the public make sense of what was happening. Instead he called for the public to share information with them. The latest case was still fresh and maybe it was best to make a statement than field questions he was unprepared to answer.
- Faster Results – “Many hands make work light” is an old saying. Montserrat has been waiting two years and more for a resolution to the situation which continues. Having fresh pairs of eyes could shed light on information which untrained officers may not see as pertinent.
- Support local staff and offer teachable moments. – The current practice in the RMPS is to rotate officers around the various departments of patrol, traffic, criminal investigations, every six months. That means, that our officers will be police of all trades but masters of none. Investigating crimes and being able to understand crime scenes is a skill that is only built over time and with practice. Sending them off to specialist training courses in Jamaica such as crime scene investigation but then putting them to work in the traffic department or to man a front desk is a waste of resources. This practice also means that at least four different teams of officers could have worked each of these assaults, which would make it a challenge to connect them if files, photos and other crime scene information was not collected properly.
- Collect useful data – If crime scenes are handled appropriately then useful information can be ascertained. Was DNA collected from the victims and did they match other cases? Were there similarities in how the homes were broken into? The force received a forensic kit from Amalgamated Security Services Limited (ASSL) February 2016 to improve their crime fighting capabilities. Is it being put to use? The deputy commissioner noted that they utilise various techniques to solve crimes, why haven’t we yet heard any information which could show that they are on top of things?
The police review also stated “For the people of Montserrat to have that required reassurance that the RMPS senior officers can effectively lead and command their officers in delivering professional policing services, the senior management team must start ‘walking the walk rather than talking the talk’ in this regard.” (page 16)
It would be go a long way in restoring confidence and garnering public support if the police were to relook the 2012 report and do what was necessary to reassure residents they were doing just that.