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Fighting Crime – A Collaborative Effort
By Hermangild Francis
Deputy Commissioner of Police
Royal Saint Lucia Police Force

In Emile Durkheim’s classical study of Crime, he states that Crime is both functional and inevitable. He goes further to indicate that crime becomes dysfunctional when incidences of crime are either too high or too low. Durkheim never offered any reason for the causes of crime, but he did talk about punishment, which in his opinion must be swift, appropriate, and the individual should be fully aware of the reason for imposing that punishment.

Durkheim seems to be suggesting that there will always be a level of criminality within our society, and our approach to controlling it will be of paramount importance.

Abraham Lincoln has been credited for saying, “In order to know where we are going, we have to know where we have been.” From time immemorial, the Police Force has been tasked with the responsibility of maintaining law and order in our society. In the past, we were understaffed, inadequately trained and extremely short on equipment. Thankfully, today, I can say that some of those ills have been addressed by the government, but we have a long way to go.

In the old days, although the police suffered from the aforementioned difficulties, they had one important asset, which was public support. An asset, which present day police officers do not enjoy. Many reasons have been forwarded as to why it is so. I do not intend to dwell on those reasons but to look at what is needed to rescue our society from the effects of criminal activity.

The Commissioner, Gazetted Officers and the Community Relations Branch are working assiduously to improve the relationship between the police and the public. The basic mission of the police is the prevention of Crime, but when it occurs, there is need for the police and the community to work in partnership. The community needs to remember, that, “the police are the people, and the people are the police”. Every Law-abiding citizen should embrace the idea of a partnership. The police are the ones paid full time to do what is incumbent on every law-abiding citizen, as crime prevention is everyone’s business.

In the old days, the quotation from the bible, which implores us to be our brother’s keeper, was practiced and people looked out for each other’s property and were very willing to inform others as to who interfered with their property.

The real test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of the police action in dealing with them. The police need to be more practical. Police Officers must at all times share knowledge and resources with other police officers and the general public. The police must learn that crime prevention means more than locks, lights and alarms. Community based programmes need to take precedence.

George Bernard Shaw summed up his feelings about community involvement by saying, “I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoughtfully used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It’s a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got to hold up for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it onto future generations.”

My advice to Police Officers is to remember that our duty is to serve mankind, safeguard life and property, protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder. We need to respect the constitutional rights of all citizens for liberty, equality and justice. We must enforce the law continuously and appropriately without fear or favor, malice or ill will, never employing unnecessary force or violence. We need to recognize our badge of office as a symbol of public faith, and we should accept it as a public trust to keep as long as we are true to the ethics of our organization.

The crime problem that we are presently experiencing can be brought under control if we embrace this idea of partnership. We in the Force know that there are problems, but these can only be fully addressed if we get the help that we need from the general public. There will be hope if that partnership is allowed to develop.