Former Police Chief, Cuthbert Phillips, has been giving his views on a plan announced recently by Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet, to hand over immigration duties to Customs Officers.
Chastanet had told the Times that the move would free up some one hundred police officers to be on the beat fighting crime.
The Prime Minister expressed the hope that the move could be effected by Christmas.
“In the case of Customs Officers I guess he is trying to reduce cost since you already have the Customs Officers available,” Cuthbert Phillips told the Times.
However he said:
“I don’t see the cost because even if you are going to do that you still have to recruit new Customs Officers, because some will have to do Customs duties while others will have to deal with immigration matters.”
The former Police Chief recalled that at one time there was a suggestion that civilians do immigration duties.
But Phillips noted that should such a move be considered, the cost and security implications will have to be borne in mind.
“I take it that anything that will be done will be properly researched looking at the cost and the security aspect of it,” he told the Times.
Phillips asserted that the small Islands of the Caribbean should not be too quick to implement certain measures that are in place in the bigger countries.
He suggested that there could be a two tier system in the immigration department, incorporating both the Police Special Branch and immigration.
Phillips observed that the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) is already “a bit strained.”
“There are some policemen when you look at them on beat and patrol – some of them are not as effective as they should be on their feet. They are not of the age to retire and really and truly medically you cannot retire them,” the former Police Commissioner told the Times.
He suggested that such members of the RSLPF can be assigned to immigration duties, rather than using the young, fit officers who should be on beat and patrol and doing investigations.
“Put them out there and put the older guys as Immigration Officers,” Phillips proposed.