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(SNO) — Lawyer and former government minister Richard Frederick said it appears National Security Minister Hermangild Francis has a “burning desire” to prosecute police officers accused of extrajudicial killings during the 2010/2011 Operation Restore Confidence (ORC).
Frederick made the comment on Thursday evening, Nov. 8 on his weekly live talk show ‘Can I Help You’ on MBC TV.
The now-notorious operation was held to contain a crime wave and was led by the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force. Following the operation, members of the force were accused of extrajudicial killings and the United States imposed the Leahy Law on the island which isolates foreign security agencies accused of human rights abuses from receiving US-sponsored military assistance.
Francis, a former police officer, had told HTS that the decision to prosecute was made after he spoke with the United States Undersecretary of Defense and brought up the constraint the Leahy Law has had on Saint Lucia.
“I told him everything that the government has done so far to show that we are serious about dealing with those matters,” he told News4orce. “And what I gathered was that the only thing that is going to suffice is that we have prosecution.”
The security minister also blamed locals for the imposition of the Leahy Law by the US.
Frederick, who is also a former police officer, said on his show Thursday that he agrees with Francis that “there were persons who went to the [U.S.] embassy to both do personal and national damage” but he does not agree with what appears to be Francis’s “burning desire to prosecute some police officers”.
“You know, there seem to be a desire to haul police officers before the courts,” Frederick said.
The former minister said he believes in justice but not at the expense of the innocent.
“Now folks I have said time and time again, and I will repeat, anyone, anyone, including me, anyone, if you’ve done the crime be prepared to do the time, full stop, full stop,” he said, adding, “But what I don’t agree with though, is that having someone to be taken before the court just for dragging them before the courts sake, or to have an innocent man being punished without justification, or for something he has not done.
“There is no doubt folks that our police officers are a sub-set of our locals. They are selected, not from people who lived in Taiwan or China — although I suspect that’s coming soon, there is a police force in Africa that has a Chinese chief now — but they are selected from among us. So in terms of their characteristics, traits, their mode of thinking and everything else, they are like us… so as anything else you will get some good cops and you would have some bad cops..
“I will go further to say there are many, many more good cops than bad ones, and it’s a fact, and it is the few bad ones, the few bad eggs that generally give the police force a bad image.
“In fact, is it enough to prosecute anybody, let alone a police officer, simply on the basis that they are perceived to be a bad man? Do you haul somebody before the court because there is a perception that that person is a bad man or a bad person? So do you take a police officer before the court on the basis that he’s a bad officer and he may have done something?”
Frederick said he was surprised when he heard Francis, who is also a lawyer, state that officers have to be prosecuted.
“You see when I heard Hermangild saying that… the officers that were the subject matter of the investigation, the IMPACS investigation, had to be prosecuted, I said ‘wait but to me Hermangild has a law degree’, because to say that somebody must be prosecuted is to presuppose, one, that they committed a crime and two, there is evidence and substantiation of the allegation that they committed a crime.”
Frederick went on to compare the scenario with the famous 1995 OJ Simpson trial where the former actor, athlete and broadcaster was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and her friend because his hand could not fit in the killer’s glove.
“So my point is if there is evidence that any police officer did anything wrong, I would be the first to say let the chips fall where they may. Charge him or her like you would charge anybody else. If any police officer committed any crime and there is evidence and substantiation, he or she ought to be treated like an ordinary citizen. If any police officer took the lives of other citizens of this country without justification and there is evidence to substantiate that, jail them, take them before the courts and jail them,” he emphasized.
He went on to say that it appears in the IMPACS situation that “if there is no evidence, evidence has to be found somewhere”. He then referred to the Oct. 29, 2018 murder of Kimberly De Leon, the wife of the senior police officer, who is a person of interest in the case, and is reportedly on 100 days vacation leave.
“His wife was killed, he was simply labeled a person of interest but then it was presumed that the evidence was insufficient to form the basis for preferring a charge against him. Where is he now? On vacation. A person of interest on vacation,” Frederick said, closing out with a laugh.