On the heel of an outcry by the public and many legislators on the version of the Police Act 2023 before the House of Assembly (HoA) comes word that local police officers of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) are claiming to not have seen the version that made it to the HoA.
This Bill seeks to repeal and replace the Police Act (Revised Edition 2013) and to make provision for matters including the Powers, Duties and Privileges of Police Officers; Police Bail and Breaches and Police Property.
Speaking to Virgin Islands News Online on condition of anonymity, many police officers noted that while they were involved and discussed the original draft of the Police Act, after they made some recommendations no one came back to them as a group to say what was adopted in the Bill from the police officers.
The version that had its first reading in the HoA on Thursday, February 2, 2023, after being brought to the House by Premier and Minister of Finance Dr the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley (R7), has raised red flags throughout the country, even from many local police officers.
One officer who saw the Bill in its current form said many of the items
the police officers discussed seem to have never made it to the current
Bill before the HoA, especially in areas of remuneration.
The proposed Police Act, 2023 has been
criticised as having many red flags and can possibly make way for police
abuse of rights.
Police State being pushed?
Many have argued that the current Police Act 2023 before the HoA strips residents of their liberties and human rights and is geared to turn the Territory into a Police and communist-like state.
The current Bill allows the police to take fingerprints, foot impressions and DNA without someone’s consent and without a warrant.
The same Bill allows the police, even UK Officers, to search residents’ dwellings without a search warrant, access communications between lawyer and client and allows the Police Commissioner to implement a cordon whenever he or she sees fit.
The controversial Bill also allows the police to alter the right to silence, and allows the courts to draw negative inferences from a person exercising their right to silence. Currently, no negative inferences can be drawn from a person wishing to remain silent.
UK appointed Governor John J. Rankin,
CMG. Many local police officers and residents have expressed concern
that over 25 UK Officers who are here as having a main mission to harass
locals and allegedly to trump up charges against targeted residents, in
line with the Governor’s agenda.
Trouble in police force; Blacks vs White; police state started?
Meanwhile, there is growing tension between the Police Welfare Association and Police Commissioner Mark Collins. It is our understanding that some members of the organisation are being victimised for speaking out on the alleged injustices going on in the police force against officers and there is upcoming legal action against Commissioner Collins’ alleged disregard for promotion procedures and policies.
There is also tension between the UK Police Officers and locals.
Many see the over 25 UK Officers who are here as having a main mission to harass locals and allegedly to trump up charges against targeted residents, in line with the Governor’s agenda. He noted, “they are here for revenge so look out…”
The UK police officers (most often white) are reportedly making more money than long-standing senior police officers, treated better, given all the resources (high price car rentals and new vehicles) they need and have the power to override local police officers, most often blacks, with higher ranks in the force, according to police sources.
Our news centre is doing our own investigations on these allegations and will bring another story with testimonies from current police officers, residents who have experienced abuse from UK officers and others who have alleged bogus charges trumped up against them by the UK police officers.
There is reportedly tension between the UK Police Officers and local officers, over remuneration, promotion and privileges.
Bill available for review
Meanwhile, the Cabinet Office on February 7, 2023, notified the public that the Bill entitled, Police Act, 2023 is now available for review on the Virgin Islands
Official Gazette website at https://eservices.gov.vg/gazette/.
It said the Bill was published in an extraordinary issue of the Gazette No. 13 dated February 3, 2023.Click here to download Police Act, 2023