The Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) made a promise to implement the use of body cameras (cams) from September of last year on a six-month trial basis. This was aimed at enhancing accountability and service to the public. The initial roll out was expected to be Officers of the Rapid Response Unit (RRU), Drug Squad and the Traffic Department. The Acting commissioner of Police, Edvin Martin during a media conference said that the effectiveness of this initiative will be monitored on an ongoing basis and a review will take place after six months of implementation, when a determination will be made on implementing this initiative across all departments of the Police Force. Well Commish its 10 months since we heard about the body cams; can you bring us up to date on the trial run?
Commissioner Martin expressed hope that this initiative will “mitigate adversarial interactions between Police Officers and members of the public” which makes perfect sense. He added that the body cams will significantly enhance the Police capacity to gather and capture evidence at the scene of crime and will also provide a platform for investigative review if this becomes necessary. Interestingly, the Commissioner noted that this initiative which has already been implemented globally, assists in holding Police Officers accountable as well as controlling interactions between the Police and members of the public. Over-reaching in Police behavior he pointed out must be dealt with even while Grenada grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic. Another interesting note was that the appropriate adjustment to the respective legislations will be made accordingly even while he doesn’t foresee any fundamental challenge in the body cam recordings being used as evidence since already recordings from close circuit cameras on buildings are used as evidence in investigations. It’s now almost 10 months ago so the Officers should have an understanding of the conditions under which body cameras are to be used in a manner consistent with international law enforcement standards.
The issue of body cams is being raised at this time as people are concerned as to what exactly caused the death of 34-year-old Ravi Baptiste who was found hanging in a holding cell at the Central Police Station on the Carenage on June 09. According to the Police, the man was discovered unresponsive during a 4:30 shift change at the station and his death was confirmed by a medical practitioner. The individual was detained and brought to the Central Police Station at about 1:15pm and went through the usual protocol before being placed in the cell wearing only a pair of boxers. The reason given for the removal of the rest of his clothes is that he was displaying hostile behavior. The Police have revealed that the matter immediately was put under investigation to determine the cause of death. One of the reporters during the Police press conference on the issue asked some pertinent questions. She queried how often do the Police pay attention to someone who was placed in the holding cell and the answer she got was that holding cells are not far away from where an Officer is seated so he/she can monitor sounds coming from the cell. The Superintendent also said that most times they check the cell every five to ten minutes depending on the situation. The question here is because Baptiste was not behaving in a calm manner, why was he not closely monitored?
There have been reports in the past of people who tried to kill themselves by hanging and upon being discovered on time, the rope was cut and lives were saved. People may remember the video of the young man in Saint Andrew who tried to commit suicide by hanging. He seemed to have been there for more than five minutes as he spoke to the woman he said that drove him to the act. It was a slow action as his life slipped away, slow enough to allow people to intervene and stop the action; he is still alive today. There is another known case in Saint Andrew who the Police Officers rescued by cutting the rope and rushing him to Princess Alice Hospital. He is also still alive. Then comes the question of what was used to cause the choking death of the man who was in Police custody? It was revealed that he used the waist of his boxer shorts; but it is not clear whether the elastic waist band was torn off the rest of the shorts for quick operation. The answer can only be had from pictures of the scene had the Officers been wearing body cams. Barring that the public will continue to vent their anger as they question the true cause of the young man’s death in custody of the Police. It would have served the RGPF some good if they could have produced pictures of even the method used to subdue him as he showed hostility.
As the imagination of the public is running on high gear, people are coming up with their own theories and sharing them in the media, most of which are sparking anger. It is our hope that the RGPF will make better use of the many gifts they receive to assist them in their duties in a more professional way so as to mitigate adversarial interactions between Police Officers and members of the public.