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Local Human Rights Advocate Felicia Browne has said the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force must continue to educate its personnel on human rights and its importance to uphold them.
Browne made those comments in response to a recent viral video in which a police officer brutalises a handcuffed male suspect. The incident reportedly occurred in Vieux Fort on Wednesday.
She said the officers involved should be “reprimanded and suspended”.
“In recent times, we have noticed that police personnel exhibit behaviors which are very unprofessional and abusive in nature,” Browne told St. Lucia News Online.
She said with the “increase in violent gun-related crimes” the police have conducted a number of operations to mitigate these types of crimes. However, she noted that in the past few months “several videos of improper and unprofessional behaviors of police personnel have continued to circulate on social media platforms”.
She said the latest video “created a greater disbelief due to its level of violence towards a suspect who was clearly handcuffed”.
Browne pointed out that the local police force have received several human rights training including one from human rights experts Edwin Powell. As such, she said it is “very alarming and discouraging” that a few police personnel would engage in such behaviours and practices which inadvertently affects the image of the police force.
“It is the responsibility of the commissioner to engage in further training of his staff to ensure that such unjust practices do not flourish under his watch. We believe that the officers involved should be reprimanded and suspended. The alleged suspect also has the right to file charges against the officer who assaulted him. He has the right to seek legal counsel without any form of prejudice; regardless of the circumstances under which he was initially apprehended,” she explained.
Browne reiterates that “every citizen’s rights must be protected and upheld by individuals who are charged to be a representative of the State”.
In the 11-second video, a man on his knees with his hands handcuffed behind him is surrounded by three males — two dressed in military fatigues and the other in normal police uniform.
One of the individuals dressed in military uniform lashes the man in his back three times with what appears to be a cutlass while repeatedly saying “what you doing with that?”
Based on reports, the man being beaten was allegedly caught with the deadly weapon.
“Because he had a cutlass on him he’s a bad man,” one source told St. Lucia News Online. “The officers just pull and started to beat him. I just know he did nothing.”
The police have been criticised harshly on social media since the video appeared on social media.
“Where’s the justice in this. Why are officers assaulting people whilst in handcuffed,” one person told St. Lucia News Online in an email.
Another person told us: “Police are responsible for maintaining public order and safety, enforcing the law, and preventing, detecting, and investigating criminal activities. What is going on here? Is this officer responsible for carrying out justice too??? Was the guy in handcuffs posing a threat to the officer?”
The video called ‘Police brutality in vfort today’ has been uploaded to Youtube. See below: