Despite calls from members of the public and from a legislator in the House of Assembly Commissioner of Police Michael Matthew maintains that he will not arm the entire Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF).
The Commissioner during a radio interview on 16 October said that he has heard the calls but do not agree that every officer should carry a gun. “Thank goodness it is the Commissioner’s decision to do it and not the politician’s decision to do it,” he declared.
According to Commissioner Matthews arming all of the officers of the RVIPF might not be a good thing: “Firearms should always be the last resort when it comes to policing and the officers that I authorize to carry Firearms in this Territory go through an intensive amount of training and they have to qualify. Not every officer qualifies. Frankly not every officer can shoot straight to put it bluntly. You don’t put a lethal weapon in the hands of somebody that can’t shoot.”
Matthews said that the present approach allows for situations to be weighed and that most matters are dealt with satisfactorily without an armed response. “More fundamentally firearm is there to combat the ultimate threat [for example]if a criminal has a firearm you’ve got to equal that threat.”
The Commissioner said that he would not support officers using guns for minor matters and incidents: “The minute you start arming the police as some sort of response to let us say disrespect or a bit of noise, a bit of chatter on the street. What you are trying to do, you are trying to use extreme force against the population that is never appropriate and I would never do that.”
“Over the term I am Commissioner, I would continue to arm what I consider to be the appropriate amount of officers to respond to the threat that we understand in the Territory at the moment, but over the time that I am Commissioner there is absolutely no intention of arming the entire force,” Matthews added.