And while Francois is said to be furious at the action of a senior police officer in the highest echelons of the police force and had taken steps to restore Public/police respect, some within the Force are saying this is not enough and that he should go one step further by dealing with the senior police officer who interfered in a police officer executing his rightful duties.
The incident which puts Francois in a bind occurred late Friday afternoon on Jeremie Street and involved a private vehicle owned by Housing Minister Richard Frederick, one of his disciples by the name of Gregory “Smoking Joe” Joseph and a traffic officer.
Police have confirmed that the vehicle was parked in a no parking area on Jeremie Street, which has a pole indicating the no parking sign firmly planted on that side of the street for all to see, the view of which is not obstructed by anything.
According to police, a traffic officer was writing up a ticket for wrongful parking to be given to the driver of the vehicle and if not present to be placed on the vehicle windscreen or in a spot on the vehicle that would be seen by the driver, when trouble erupted.
“While writing up the ticket the officer was approached by United Workers Party operative Gregory “Smoking Joe” Joseph who attempted to grab the ticket book from the officer. Joseph was warned about his behaviour, but however continued with his attempts at preventing the officer from executing his lawful duties. The officer thereafter affixed the ticket to the vehicle’s windscreen at which point Mr. Joseph grabbed and tore it in the presence of the police, all the while berating and disrespecting the officer,” police say.
The officer tried to restrain Joseph but was assaulted in the process. Joseph was restrained and arrested after a second officer came to assist.
The VOICE learned that while Mr. Joseph was being processed at the police station, a Deputy Police Commissioner instructed a superintendent of police to ensure that Mr. Joseph was immediately released. The superintendent in turn telephoned the traffic department advising that he had been instructed to have the prisoner released without charge.
All that took place late Friday afternoon.
By Monday morning the incident took on a fresh and disturbing angle, one that almost resulted in mutiny within the police department when it was realized that Joseph who had defaced government property by tearing the ticket, resisted arrest, assaulted and injured an officer was released without charge on the instructions of a Deputy Police Commissioner. Adding insult to injury was the fact that the injured officer had to be attended to at Victoria Hospital. He is now on sick leave.
The executive of the Police Welfare Association met to discuss the matter then sat down with the rank and file of the traffic department warranted by the seriousness of the situation and its implications to members of the traffic department in the execution of their duties.
The Welfare Association along with the rank and file of the traffic department Monday afternoon marched to Chesterfield, home of the police hierarchy, demanding a meeting with the hierarchy.
At that meeting, The Voice learned, members of the traffic department made it clear to the Commissioner the disrespect shown to them by someone who is supposed to uphold the rule of law, given his position and who is supposed to work with them, not against them. They expressed their hurt at the manner in which Joseph was ordered to be released even after he assaulted and wounded one of their own who was simply doing his duties.
Francois has since given the order to re-arrest Joseph.
But that is one aspect of the situation. Police officers are now waiting to see what will be done to the deputy commissioner who gave the order to release Joseph. Many officers who spoke to The VOICE are waiting to see how the Commissioner will deal with the deputy, because, according to at least two officers, if they were the ones who interfered with a police officer executing his/her duties they would be dealt with in quick order.
The Police Welfare Department has since urged all officers to execute their duties in a professional manner without fear or favour.
Voice reporters covering the matter report that ordering the re-arrest of Joseph does not bring the matter to an end. They report that more meetings are scheduled with the Commissioner and the Association to deal with the morale of members of the force because the incident had eroded members’ confidence in the hierarchy of the force.
Some officers view the interference of the deputy commissioner as an attack on the integrity of the police force, one which the police force has been building with the public with an operation it undertook in February of this year called ‘Operation Restore Confidence’.
How can the public now trust the police force if it has high ranking members with no high moral principles or professional standards?
This is a question several professional police officers are asking as they go about their daily tasks.
Officers are also questioning the parking of the Minister’s vehicle in a no parking area, asking themselves whether this was deliberately done or an oversight by the Minister.
Meanwhile it is not only members of the police force who wait on Commissioner of Police, Vernon Francois, to clear the air on whether he condones the behaviour of his deputy and what steps will be taken to have the deputy disciplined.
Members of the public are also waiting to see what action the Commissioner takes. Voice reporters say that already a deputy commissioner has denied issuing an order to a superintendent to release Joseph.
They also report that a deputy commissioner is saying that at the time he acted on certain information received.
Obviously something is amiss here and should be straightened out quickly so as to maintain all what the police force has, over the years, worked so hard to achieve.
Commissioner Francois holds in his hands the keys to a respected police force or one which will forever be plagued by allegations of corruption and wrongdoing. How he handles this matter will determine on which side the axe falls.