Beautiful Virgin Islands

Thursday, Feb 22, 2024

‘I was a victim of police abuse’- Premier Wheatley

‘I was a victim of police abuse’- Premier Wheatley

Amid criticisms in the public for bringing a highly controversial Police Bill to the House of Assembly (HoA) Premier and Minister of Finance Dr the Honourable Wheatley (R7) has hit back by saying he would be the last person in the Virgin Islands who would facilitate Police having powers which can be abused.

The Bill, which our news site was the first to bring to light in an article on February 3, 2023, entitled ‘Police Bill 2023 raises red flags & makes way for police abuse of rights’, was scheduled to get its second and third readings at the Third Sitting of the Fifth Session of the Fourth House of Assembly (HoA) at the Save the Seed Centre, in Duffs Bottom, Tortola on February 10, 2023; however, the HoA held off on that following strong concerns from the public.

The Bill, which our news site was the first to bring to light in an article on February 3, 2023, entitled ‘Police Bill 2023 raises red flags & makes way for police abuse of rights’, was scheduled to get its second and third readings at the Third Sitting of the Fifth Session of the Fourth House of Assembly (HoA) at the Save the Seed Centre, in Duffs Bottom, Tortola on February 10, 2023; however, the HoA held off on that following strong concerns from the public.

Wrongful arrest

In a statement in the HoA on Friday, Premier Wheatley shared three experiences where he claimed he was a victim of police abuse.

“In 1996 I was walking down the street one late night in Road Town. A jeep pulled next to me, and a man jumped out and pointed a gun at my head and told me to get down on the ground. He cuffed me, put me in the back of the jeep, and took me to the Police Station for questioning. After realizing that I was not who they thought, I was released.”

‘I spent the night in jail’ in Atlanta

Dr Wheatley then related that on another occasion, while studying in Atlanta in 1999, a police officer gave him a traffic ticket that he thought was unjust.

“I protested, and he said if I said one more word, I would spend the night in jail. I continued protesting, and he arrested me and I spent the night in jail.”

He said on a third occasion, while studying in the United Kingdom in 2004, he had an encounter while visiting a friend’s home.

Racial profiling by UK Officers?

“Two police officers in plain clothes approached me and accused me of carrying a crowbar in my school bag that I used to break into people’s homes. I thought that this was an outrageous accusation and refused to be searched.

“The two officers then jumped on me and we had a struggle for about 20 minutes. They managed to get me down and cuffed me. They called for back up and there were about 9 officers who surrounded me and were pushing me around the circle. When an onlooker walked by, they finally left, but not before emptying my school books out of my bag onto the street.

The Premier then said he is perhaps the only Virgin Islander in history who has led a March in London, protesting a death in police custody.

“Madam Speaker, I am the last person who would give the police powers that can be abused.”

Police Act needs modernising but…

Dr Wheatley said, as a leader in the Virgin Islands’ community, as a member of the National Security Council, and as someone very concerned about crime, he is aware of the need to modernise the Police Act to take criminals off the street and that passage of this Bill presents hope of success in solving many unsolved murders in the VI.

He said, in its current form, the Police Act (Cap. 165) is not fully reflective of modern policing practices, contemporary human resources practices and current technological advances in the prevention and detection of crime, such as DNA testing and electronic data analysis.

“Madam Speaker, we must enact the changes necessary to equip the force to protect and serve, and in committee stage we must remove the areas that we all are gravely concerned about. We will not debate the Bill today. We will allow more time to consult, discuss, and prepare the necessary amendments to be considered by the public and members,” Dr Wheatley stated.
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