It gives me great pleasure to extend to you a very warm welcome to the Fifth Annual General Meeting of the Caribbean Federation of Police Welfare Associations (CFPWA) which is being held under the theme “Building Bridges To Provide Sustainable and Effective Representation Throughout the Region”. It is an opportune time for us to renew our relationship and to discuss the way forward for this Federation. I wish to take this opportunity to thank the hard working staff who worked tirelessly to make this ceremony possible. I also take this opportunity to thank the Executive and general Membership of the CFPWA for their hard work over the year which allowed this Federation to accomplish the goals set out at our last Annual General Meeting.
As we move on to a new year for this Federation, there is much more to be done. It is gratifying to note that the agenda of the Seminar covers a wide range of very interesting items which will impact positively on lives of Police Officers throughout the region. One of these topics is the accreditation of our police forces in the Caribbean.
The time has come for us as Police Officers to be granted Professional Recognition. We must be able to move from one country to another and function in the same way as we do in our home country. Other professions such as nurses are accredited and this accreditation allows them to work in different parts of the Caribbean. Engineers, Doctors and Lawyers are also Professions that are accredited and they are also free to work and practice in other jurisdictions. However, the Police have not yet measured up to these levels. This is one area that we at the CFPWA intend to pursue aggressively to enhance the professionalism of Police Officers around the region. We are aware that the Regional Security System (RSS) have been engaging talks on this matter and we are prepared to work along with this team to ensure this accreditation materialise as a matter of urgency.
This is necessary if we are to effectively fight crimes which are plaguing our Caribbean islands such as the trafficking of illicit drugs and firearms and those emerging crimes which are now coming to our shores including human trafficking and terrorism. I reiterate the call for us to take the issue of terrorism seriously and that continuous training be provided for officers in the region to detect and prevent terrorism that may come to our shores. This is imperative since recently, we learnt of a number of persons from the island of Trinidad and Tobago who have journeyed to Syria to become members of ISIS. Although the CFPWA is designed to champion the cause of its members, our overall functions as Police Officers which is to prevent and detect crime remains in the forefront.
As one great author, Saxby Chambliss puts it “The backbone of our nation’s domestic defense against terrorist attacks will continue to be the men and women in local law enforcement and emergency services.”
Another important item which will be focused at this conference is pursuing the provision of a compensation package for officers or their families who have been injured or even died in the line of duty. As officers risk their lives every day to protect the citizens and visitors alike, we must ensure that they are properly covered in doing so. Just recently, right here in Grenada, an officer was killed while in the line of duty. Approximately, two weeks later an officer was also killed while in the line of duty in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. This shows that even though we are striving to protect our citizens, we too are at risk. Therefore adequate compensation must be in place. Further, the provision of the necessary resources and training is imperative.
The time has also come for us to be given independence so that our voices can be heard on issues that affect us. The rules and regulations that governs us in our respective associations ought to be changed. These outdated laws have stifled the associations to act independently. We must recommend to our respective governments through an act of parliament for a freedom of information act. At present if we are to communicate to the media, we must seek permission from the Commissioner of Police. This in my view is out-dated and shows little or no independence.
Ladies and gentlemen, one of the aims and objectives of the Federation is to assist the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police in the development of new and existing policies where necessary. Our mission also states, “to communicate with ACCP, Caricom and any other stakeholder on matters brought to the attention of its executive and make recommendations.” This mission is clear that even when our founding fathers were drafting this constitution, the ACCP was always in thought. I am very disappointed though, that some members of the ACCP have not fully embraced us as their own. If we are to succeed in the fight against crime and to seriously protect our citizens and visitors that come to our shores we must do it together, since the fighting of crime is all of us business, it cannot be fought individually. We must now more than ever change our old colonial way of thinking and change our transactional type of leadership to a more transformational style if we are to build bridges together on facing the challenges of a modern policing era.
The great Henry Ford states quite fittingly “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress; working together is success”.
Ladies and gentlemen I thank you!