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Former top cop recalls how mistrust divided police force

Former top cop recalls how mistrust divided police force

Former Police Commissioner Michael Matthews has revealed that he identified mistrust among officers within the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) and said it was a major pitfall he had to battle when he was top cop.
Like all other industries in the BVI, the RVIPF has a large number of expatriates from across the Caribbean mainly because local recruiters are unable to fill all the posts from within the local community.

Matthews said he was shocked when he first arrived and discovered that there was mistrust among officers from the various Caribbean countries that are represented in the force.

“I think it was probably the first meeting I held with the force where I spoke about my shock — not understanding Caribbean culture. Because I thought coming in as the ‘white UK guy’, I was going to be the odd person, I was going to be the one that would have no friends in the organisation. But what I came to realize is there’s mistrust between different countries around the Caribbean. For example, if you’re from Jamaica and you’re from Saint Vincent…” Mathews explained.

He added that he worked hard to reduce the resentment among the nationalities in the force as he knew it would only worsen the challenges they were already facing with policing the community. However, Matthews said he isn’t sure if he accomplished his goal of reducing the resentment and mistrust.

“I’m not sure I won but what I tried to say to officers and staff was: we’re all wearing the same badge, we’re all in the same uniform and we’re all entrusted by the public to keep them safe. The only way we can do this is if we cooperate with each other. The last thing I wanted was a situation where an officer was in need of assistance and another officer wasn’t prepared to help them out because culturally, they are from different places,” Matthews explained.

He continued: “That was a major pitfall in terms of; if I couldn’t overcome that, then I got a force that was divided and not delivering to the public. I can’t obviously speak for now whether those issues still exist but that certainly existed in 2016 when I arrived.”

Matthews also admitted that he sensed that members of the public distrusted him because he was an outsider.

“I think, to begin with, there was mistrust when I arrived. There was a degree of resentment about the fact that I’m not from here,” Matthews stated.

Matthews demitted the top cop post in 2021 and is now a board member of the BVI Ports Authority.

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