Members of the Auxiliary of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force are an important part of the service.
However, the standards have dropped over the years and the organization is crying out to be returned to the position of respectability it once enjoyed.
Michael Charles, former Commissioner of Police who now heads the Auxiliary Police Department, recalled that when he joined the Police Force in 1981, he was assigned with an auxiliary police officer.
“This was the level of respect the Auxiliary had back in the day,” Charles said .
In those days, the thing that distinguished the Auxiliary Officer from a regular Police Officer, was the red stripe that runs along the side of the pants leg or skirt of the Auxiliary Officer, the Commandant explained.
Charles admitted that a lack of discipline has begun to creep into the Auxiliary Force, e.g. not taking up assigned duties and use of alcohol while on duty.
Complaints about perceived seniority
Former CoP Charles had promptly availed himself to an interview with THE VINCENTIAN, on being told that complaints/ allegations had been made by a member of an Auxiliary Officer.
The officer, who spoke on the basis of anonymity, addressed a number of issues affecting him and his colleagues, one of which was the lack of respect shown to Auxiliary Officers by higher ranked and even members of the same rank of the Police Force.
Even Police Officers fresh out of training school, according to the complainant, were of the impression that they were senior to members of the Auxiliary, even if those Auxiliary Officers had enlisted for several years before.
The Officer contended that under the Police Act 391, the Auxiliary Police enjoy the same rights, privileges and freedoms as police.
And as is stated in Section 63 (1) of the Police Act 391 under ‘Authority and pay’: ‘Every member of the Auxiliary Police shall have, exercise and enjoy the same powers, authorities, advantages and immunities as a member of the Force and, when called out for service, be liable to the same duties and responsibilities’.
Salaries and wages
Another grievance expressed was that of salary; that Auxiliary Officers were paid less than what was paid to Police Officers of equal rank, despite provisions in the law for equal pay.
“We do the same thing the police are doing… we serving and protecting…we took the same oath and everything… .,” the Officer complained.
According to the Police Act: ‘Every member of the Auxiliary Police when called out for service by the Commissioner under the provisions of section 55 shall be paid for his services from such monies as may be provided by Parliament, at the same rate as a member of the Force of equivalent rank’.
On this point, Charles clarified that although there are laws regarding the amount that auxiliary officers are to be paid, the reality is that they are daily paid workers.
Under Section 59 of the Police Act, ‘Every member of the Auxiliary Police shall be provided with a short manual describing the powers and duties of the Auxiliary Police, a badge, a baton and such clothing and other equipment as may be approved by the Commissioner’.
But, referencing that Auxiliary Officers are often assigned to what is known as static duties, where there is a real chance of something dangerous occurring especially at night, the complainant said that he believes that Auxiliary Officers should be allowed to carry weapons.
Charles, however, said that even during his time as Commissioner of Police, he was very cautious about issuing firearms and firearm licences to certain Police Officers.
“Because putting a firearm in someone’s hand is a very dangerous thing,” he said.
In order to be issued a firearm, you have to be trained, and auxiliary officers are not trained in the use of firearms, Charles explained, “So, while they are complaining, the Commissioner will not put a firearm in their possession.”
A work in progress
Charles admitted that some of the allegations made were indeed accurate, but indicated that the “officers were the architects of their own misfortunes… the way they carry themselves.”
He added, “Many times I have to talk to Auxiliaries on the streets; they want to pass in rum shops and so on.
The Commandant disclosed that former Commissioner Keith Miller had started doing some training on weekends. Members of the Auxiliary Police are subjected to a certain level of training, but it is not as rigid as it is for the regular police, he explained.
According to Charles, there was a move to re-introduce a programme of training, but with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, they have had to suspend it.
At the helm of this project was the Adjutant of the Auxiliary Police Force B.T Marksman who was working along with Charles to restoring some respectability to the organization.
Charels assured that they will be resuming training for auxiliary officers, more so now that some of the issues affecting them have been highlighted.
“Most of the times we do not hear anything from the affected officers. Even during meetings, nothing is said,” he complained.
He assessed the information relayed as very usual, noting that in most cases we cannot do without it.
AS “VERY USEFUL “Because they are very useful. In most cases we cannot do without them,” Charles said
“It is just that the standards have deteriorated over the years, and we are not sure how this happened,” he said. (The Vincentian )