As the leader of the opposition and as leader of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party, I extend heartfelt sympathy to the family of Philo Wallace. While there are conflicting stories as to what actually led to young Philo’s tragic death, I call on anyone who was present to contact the violent crimes unit and to speak to Superintendent Mitchell personally. Superintendent Mitchell urgently needs your help. Philo Wallace’s family urgently needs your help. And the nation urgently needs your help . As a nation and a people, we must understand our unavoidable responsibility, in cases such as this, to share with the authorities whatever we saw. Justice must not only be done but it must appear to be done.
The death of Philo Wallace raises another important point: Some have been calling for the establishment of a Police Oversight Committee to review and investigate complaints against the police. My administration about one year ago did what had to be done to make this a reality. We passed The Police Complaints Act 2014 on the 24th day of October 2014 and it was gazetted on the 10th day of November 2014. The Act has, however, not yet come into effect as the Prime Minister and Minister of National Security has to date not given any notice of the commencement date of the Act.
The Police Complaints Act pursuant to section 22 of the Act calls for the establishment of a unit within the Police Force called the Complaints Unit and pursuant to section 24 calls for a police officer of a rank no lower than that of Assistant Superintendent to head the Unit. In that regard Superintendent Rosemarie Isles received the necessary training to competently lead this unit, and was appointed by former Commissioner Walwyn to do so.
The current Office of Professional Standards was put in place by former Commissioner Walwyn and is headed by Superintendent Isles. It was this Office that led the investigation that resulted in the recent suspension of the officer who shot the security guard in Nevis.
Superintendent Isles has been publicly attacked by some, and following the February 2015 elections was demoted to inspector. In light of the pressing needs of our nation to have an independent mechanism by which police conduct is properly investigated, the Prime Minister and Minister of National Security must now as a matter of urgency give notice of a date for this Act to come into force and move to have Inspector Isles re-instated as Superintendant to head the Complaints Unit under the Act a position for which she was properly trained.
The people of Nevis are understandably angry because of the death of Philo Wallace and are demanding justice. The coming into force of the Police Complaints Act will ensure that investigations into police conduct are handled impartially, transparently, and independently. It will facilitate investigations not only into police conduct, but the conduct of all members of security forces – including island constables and security guards. Most importantly, the coming into force of the Police Complaints Bill will give both the public and the police force confidence in the fairness of all security-related investigations.
We therefore call on the Prime Minister and Minister of National Security to urgently give notice of a commencement date for the Police Complaints Act and to re-instate Superintendant Rosemarie Isles who already has the requisite training to head the Complaints Unit.
In St. Kitts & Nevis, we must follow the evidence – wherever it leads. We must ensure that all efforts lead to truth. We must ensure that all efforts lead to justice.