Attorney General Dale Marshall has called for a recruitment and retention strategy to be prepared for the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF).
And, while he has hinted at the possibility of lowering the retirement age for policemen, Mr. Marshall has also made it clear that the recruiting process had to change.
“They have to change because the current administration feels that we have to attract a different set of people for the policing career. They will not all have five CXCs or a university degree, but so long as they have the intellect, the honesty and the capacity to carry out policing, I see no good reason why they cannot be deployed,” he said.
The Attorney General made these assertions as he addressed the Force’s annual conference at Solidarity House recently.
He called on the Force’s high command to prepare for his consideration a recruitment and retention strategy, as the organization needed to fill existing vacancies within its ranks.
At the same time, he lamented the fact that the members of the RBPF were not treated on a “similar footing” as members of the Barbados Defence Force, who were allowed to retire at age 45 in some instances and at age 55 in others.
“The fact of the matter is that given the constant pressure that you are under, there is no doubt that your health profile is going to be challenged as you get older. Therefore, we have to find ways of improving your conditions where possible by lowering the age of retirement. That will also have the effect of creating faster vacancies and at higher rates and allow junior officers to move up speedily,” Mr. Marshall explained.
He added that the “burning and contentious issue” of promotions would now be dealt with under the new Protective Services Commission, in an effort to speed up the process and ensure that procedures were followed according to a merit-based system.
“We think that a merit based system is one that is transparent and will ultimately eliminate suspicion and mistrust that has been a feature of the system over the years,” he said.
These views were supported by Head of Research and Development, Inspector Mark White, who noted that shortages in the Force were compounded by high levels of sick leave and attrition through retirements, resignations and deaths.
He noted that while it was recognized that law enforcement ensured a measure of job security, the RBPF needed to revisit its recruitment methods when seeking to fill existing vacancies.
“Police officers are often exposed to the worst and human behavior 24/7, 365 days. It is a job that can negatively impact family and personal life and these things can influence whether or not one applies to the Force. Therefore, a number of things must, therefore, be done to enhance the reputation of the occupation,” he said, noting that this included having a more competitive salary at the entry-level and at all levels within the departments.
Inspector White also stressed that there must be good mentorship and strong support from senior officers within the Force to help guide the career development plan for those choosing the profession.
“The tradition that a police officer must be seen and treated the same way as any other public officer should be addressed …. The issues of qualifications and qualification bars must also be addressed, as we all know that the skill, fearlessness, determination and expertise of a good policeman cannot be based on certification alone.
“The RBPF must, therefore, prepare for a new generation of recruits. It must outline new and varied opportunities that go far beyond the benefits of the public service …. It must recruit people who are first and foremost eager to help others and want to serve their community,” the Inspector pointed out.