I am compelled to speak out on the recent events on the island of Saba. Last week, a man was arrested in his home for what appeared to be a hit-and-run accident. Based on the many accounts, the man in question hit a car; the police were called to the scene, approached the man (who was in his home), a scuffle ensued with the man pulling a knife and the police pulling a gun. The man was arrested and there is talk of attempted homicide of a police officer. That is the story in a nutshell.
I was not present at what took place and so I write this letter with some caution. Nonetheless, what occurred has sparked great controversy on the island, with many questioning the actions of the police. You see, there has been growing criticism of the police force ever since the infamous “10-10-10” transition, which perhaps would be more aptly called “6-6-6.” Before the transition, there was a clear understanding of what the role of the police force was on the island. However, with the many changes including the addition of Marechaussees and the establishment of the BES Police Force, the role of law enforcement has become increasingly more ambiguous for the residents of Saba. If there is a traffic jam and the police are asked to intervene, they quickly assert that it is not their job. When there was a car accident between two cars, the police were called, and once again the police were quick to say it is not their job and to call the insurance company. When pedestrians are accosted and harassed by street loiterers, the police maintain that this too is not their job.
Contrary to the above, when the owner of the car that was hit contacted the police, their petition for help was not met with the proverbial response of “it’s not our job” or the placating and lack lustre promise of “come by the station in the morning to issue a complaint.” No! This time the police, and not just one police officer, but three police officers sprinted to action, rushing to the scene of the crime to exact justice for the crime committed.
Now, I must point out that there are two varying reports on what happened next. If you were to read the press release issued by the BES Police Force and the follow-up article in The Daily Herald of last week, you would quickly come to the conclusion that a huge discrepancy exists between the police’s account and that of the man’s wife. This should be no surprise, but if you look further than the obvious competing accounts of that night’s events, there are some things that are worth having a bright light shone upon them.
The press release issued by the BES Police Force reported that the incident happened on a Monday night. By most accounts, the incident happened on a Tuesday night. While the police are snail slow to any action, they were so quick to issue a press release wherein they got the most rudimentary of details wrong. It is only conceivable that they knew the situation got drastically knowout of hand and had to do damage control.
The police appeared at the man’s home sans uniform and police badge, producing by all accounts an ID that is very similar to that which all residents possess. Anyone, in the dead of night would be apprehensive to let strangers into their home, even if those strangers identified themselves as police officers.
Considering that police are rotated so frequently, the island’s residents don’t always know who is a police officer due to their low visibility within the community. This begs to question, why these officers at minimum didn’t have their badges. Was the crime of bumping into someone’s fender (which didn’t even require mechanical work) so criminal that it warranted action so swift, recognizable identification was ignored?
As I have stated, I was not present at the events of that night, but clearly things went very wrong. A man sits in jail not knowing how high a price he will have to pay for his actions. But moreover, while this man may have acted out of fear or with resolve to protect himself and his spouse from people he did not know and had no reason to trust, it is clear that the officers who showed up at his doorstep did not do so out of duty, but did so because of friendship and a shared heritage with the owner of the car that sustained minor damage.
Saba is not my birthplace, but it is my home and home is where one should feel safe. If the reckless vigilante behaviour of these officers is not called into question by the entire community of Saba and investigated by the powers that be, we are left at the mercy of the BES Police “Excessive” Force to serve and protect us. If so, we can be certain that when the police are called, they will come; then I fear for us all.
The Daily Herald published this comment.
Name withheld on author’s request.