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Country’s security, morale of police improved, under my watch, says COP

Country’s security, morale of police improved, under my watch, says COP

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Outgoing Commissioner of Police (COP) Michael Charles believes that under his leadership, the security of this country has improved and the morale of the police is higher than when he first got there.

Charles, during an exclusive interview with SEARCHLIGHT last Friday, stated that the police have been able to improve the country’s security by learning from past experiences and applying that knowledge{{more}} to present day situations.

“Every day we learn from our past experiences and the way we do things yesterday, we may able to do that much better today, because we can learn from that experience.”

The COP, who will be replaced by deputy COP Renold Hadaway, is spending his last days on the job this week.

Reflecting on his tenure, the COP said during his first year at the helm of constabulary, there was a spate of murders in the Fair Hall/Glen region and the strategies they applied back in 2014 are still benefiting persons to this day.

The outgoing Commissioner, however, noted that to deal with the recent string of homicides, they had to do some re-tooling and additional strategizing. He further stated that one of the strategies employed during the Carnival season was increased patrols and searches.

Charles stated that since taking over from Commissioner Keith Miller in 2013, the morale of the men has risen and he is greatly supported by the almost 1,000 men and women of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVGPF).

Despite this, he admitted that there are times when the men and women under his command get disgruntled. This is especially true when it comes to the granting of promotions, Charles said.

However, he stated that with so many people in the force and so few vacancies, there is only so much that can be done and he would never be able to please everyone.

Charles, originally from Redemption Sharpes on the outskirts of Kingstown, said he is “more than grateful” for the support he has received from the public during his 35-year career and three years as Commissioner.

“I must tell you that we do get information from the public; the public is working well with the police. That is one of the high points of my stint as Commissioner. I have a good relationship with the general public and I must mention that without the assistance of the public, some of the crimes that we solved would have not been solved.”

Charles joined the RSVGPF on February 28, 1981. Following his enlistment, he spent three months on the beat before being transferred to the Special Services Unit (SSU), where he spent nine and a half years. The next 10 years was spent in the Narcotics Unit.

In 2001, following the general elections which saw the ULP taking office, Charles served as head of security for Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves. He remained in this position until 2005, when he was promoted to the rank of Station Sergeant. Other promotions to Inspector, then Assistant Superintendent of Police, then Assistant Commissioner swiftly followed, until his appointment as COP.

Charles admitted that one of the low points of his career came during the 2015 general election campaign when he came under fire from the opposition New Democratic Party and others for wearing a full red suit to a meeting of the Unity Labour Party (ULP) and posing for a picture while making the ‘four-in-a-row’ sign with his fingers.

Charles shared with SEARCHLIGHT his regret about that incident and said that he had learnt from his mistake.

He, however, maintains that while the photo was not doctored, he does not recall making the ‘four-in-a-row’ gesture.

“To be honest, I couldn’t recall ever making that ‘four-in-a-row’ hand sign. I went in the red, and mind you, it was just red; it had no political signs or anything,” said Charles, adding that he also attended a meeting of the opposition NDP wearing a yellow top.

“On hindsight, I would not have worn the full outfit and more so make that four-in-a-row sign.”

Charles has also received criticism, particularly on social media, from supporters of the governing ULP for not using more force to quell the protest action which has flared up from time to time outside the Electoral Office since the December 9, 2015 elections.

“A lot of people criticized me…and they feel that I should have really gone and be very forceful.”

He, however, said no two persons analyze a situation in the same way and he felt the best approach was to step back and look at what was taking place.

“If it gets too out of hand, well then we step in. Notwithstanding what people would say, things never really got out of hand,” the COP stated.

He, recalled one incident when the police officer who was assigned to protect the supervisor of elections was absent and protesters swarmed her while she was leaving her office. He, however, still believes that the situation never really escalated past that.

“People were…making a lot of noise, shouting and so, but we always had things under control.”

He also noted that the police had also recently received judgement in their favour in court in relation to an arrest made during the protests and a man who had threatened the supervisor of elections, indicating that they had made correct judgment.

Charles thanked the commissioners and the other ranks in the RSVGPF and the general public for their support during his stint as head of the police force.

“Sometimes, when you think things are bad, you go down the road and you hear people talk; they just make you feel like you doing a good job,” he noted.

The Commissioner also thanked the Minister of National Security Dr Ralph Gonsalves for the trust he placed in him to lead the police force for past three years.(CM)

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