Bill for Police (Amendment) Act passed in the House of Assembly
Recruits to the police force will only become police officers after they have completed their training.
This is so due to the passing into law of the Police (Amendment) Act in the House of Assembly on October 18. The Act alters the current policy where once a recruit is enlisted into the force, he immediately takes the oath of office and becomes an officer.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who is also the minister with responsibility for national security, outlined the essential changes of the Act.
He said that under the amended Act, new recruits will take the oath of office only when he or she has successfully completed training school and exhibits the required attitude and aptitude to hold the office of police officer.
The probationary period for recruits will also increase from 18 months to two years and that the extended period will be counted for pension purposes.
“By having a more rigorous system of recruitment and training and with these new provisions, it is less likely to have such persons wanting to leave, but if they want to leave, we give them a longer period in the probation so that they could appreciate that listen, before we go past our probation period, may as well we get out because this thing is not for us,” the prime minister said.
Gonsalves noted that the existing law indicated that any non-commissioned officer or constable may with the consent of the commissioner, withdraw himself from the force at any time by giving three months’ notice in writing of his intention to do so.
He further said that the extended probationary period will show up those who may not have the attitude or aptitude necessary for being a part of the police force.
Opposition leader, Godwin Friday said that he has no particular problem with the objectives of the bill.
But he believes that the idea of having the proper attitude and good character must be a trait that is demonstrated in the entire hierarchy of the police force.
And the opposition leader highlighted a recent accusation that the acting commissioner of police had dealt blows to suspended police officer, Ettian Charles.
“The institution itself has an interest in ensuring that credible complaints against officers from top to bottom are properly investigated and that those matters are resolved in a way that inspires public confidence in the service,” Friday said.
“The bill in itself doesn’t really give any assurances with respect to that but this is a matter of part of our whole system of good governance that where you have high office, an office that requires public trust, a position where persons look up to and turn to for upholding the law, you need people of good character, people of good reputation and you need systems in place to ensure those qualities are manifest.”
The opposition leader said he believes that the force should be entirely professional and also consider going out and recruiting persons believed to be suitable to take up a position.
However, he reiterated that the image of the force must be enhanced as well as the training procedure and that the same standards of good character must manifest at all levels.