Recently, the prime minister, the man of silence who claims to be knowledgeable about our history, declared that although we need more police, Barbadians would not be happy being policed by non-Barbadians. This may well be true, but if my analysis is right, Barbadians are the most committed Caricom supporters of all the nations affiliated to that regional body. We have always had a sizeable population of St Lucians, Dominicans, Vincentians and other Eastern Caribbean people living among us. They are our brothers and sister and we are proud of them. More important, since the abolition of slavery the main Barbadian export, along with sugar, has been people: to Bermuda, the Bahamas, St Kitts, Guyana, the US, Canada, the UK and elsewhere. Even to this day Kittians still talk of Barbadian police, Bermudans of our police and prison staff, the same for the Bahamas. Vieux Fort, in St Lucia, has a population mainly descended from Barbadians, the Panama Canal was built with Jamaican and Barbadian labour. So, although the prime minister may be speaking a recent truth, it is one that he should discourage. Leadership is about leading public opinion, not just playing to populist prejudices.
Police Organisation and Management:
Although it is true that our police are not given the status and remuneration that they deserve, a lot of the problems they face are down to poor management, poor training and poor use of resources. Let us take, for example, the ever-expanding headquarters, with its sclerotic bureaucracy. At head office alone, the police have one commissioner, one deputy commissioner, four assistant commissioners, seven senior superintendents, nine superintendents, 15 assistant superintendents, 42 inspectors (yes that is correct), six station sergeants, 12 sergeants, ten constables, 25 clerical officers, 12 telephone operators. This army of bureaucrats are in the main a drain on taxpayers. Where Barbadians need police officers – uniformed officers and not muscle-bound young men in baseball caps chatting up young women – is out in the community, talking to ordinary people and reassuring them that things may look bad, but compared with the rest of the world, even with Trinidad and Guyana, Barbados is a haven. Good management could prune the fat cats in police headquarters, in their brown uniforms, sitting behind their expansive desks,and get them out in the streets where it matters.