During the community meeting in Long Look at the Sticket on 16 January Commissioner of Police Michael Matthews announced that tackling the issue of crime in the Territory will require more than arming police officers and ramping up police presence.
The Commissioner admitted that he is aware of calls for an armed RVIPF but he explained that this was not practical: “Some suggest having more armed officers on the streets around the Territory; just arming police officers will not solve the problem.”
“Arming a police officer is about protecting themselves and the public, not about going out there acting as an execution squad. Our job is to bring people to justice, safely, and we should only use lethal force when it is absolutely necessary to do so. It should be the police to do so; we shouldn’t be arming the public and expect them to do it for us,” he added.
In relations to increased visibility, the COP announced that it was not possible for officers to be all over: “We can’t be everywhere. Nowhere manages to deploy police everywhere, but give us a fighting chance. The real problem I see is about changing cultural mind-sets. Family relationships run deep in the communities, but you cannot condone violent crimes and maintain the safety and security you enjoy; you cannot have both. You condone the offences by staying silent,” he stated.
Mr. Matthews said he understands the call for a heavier presence, but observed that it was not practical: “Having our officers out would look good and more persons might feel safe, but it is not an effective use of resources just to have officers out to be seen. I accept that visibility is a real challenge that we must work on, because it does give assurance.”
Code of Silence is the Problem
The Commissioner announced that many more crimes could be solved if the police received community cooperation and as a result get more evidence: “I can tell you that there are unsolved murders in this Territory where we are fully aware of who we think the most likely suspects of those murders are. And, if any of those people who know they did it are listening to me on any radio broadcast or any subsequent publication, start looking over your shoulders because I’m serious. We know the names of some of these people; we know where they live. We just haven’t got the evidence yet.”
In impressing the need for community cooperation, Mr. Matthews added: “We need you to speak up and say what you know…Somebody knows who’s doing this and, by saying nothing, you are protecting them. I say worst to those who say nothing; you are condoning murder, robbery, and serious crime. Do not condone it by turning a blind eye. We must catch these killers and robbers.”
“We can build in legal protections to protect the identity of persons, how they look and where they live; what we can’t build is community spirit for persons to stand up and come forward and say what they saw and know,” he added.