National Security Minister, Hermangild Francis, has said that the Soufriere police station is in a deplorable state, but said it was unfortunate that police officers took action yesterday without consulting him or the Police Commissioner.
He said he did not think that the Police Commissioner was aware that the President of the Police Welfare Association (PWA), Camron Laure, would visit the station yesterday.
Francis, a former Deputy Police Commissioner, said he empathised with the officers in Soufriere, but was a little surprised because as soon as the United Workers Party (UWP) government assumed office he visited the Soufriere station with the PWA President and both men made certain pronouncements at that time.
“We are just going into a budget process and I thought that the association would have continued to liaise with me to see what was going to be done for the Soufriere police station,” he stated.
However Francis said he had no “qualms” about the police taking action yesterday by standing outside the station.
He disclosed that the Police Commissioner will be visiting the station and there will be dialogue with the PWA as to the way forward.
“In our discussion last year we went that far as to actually identify a building. As you would understand, we inherited a budget – there was no allocation for police stations, so it is for us to find ways and means to assist the police officers,” Francis explained.
He noted that the building that has been identified as the place to relocate is still occupied.
“There must be a transition and we need to be able to tell the owner of that building that we will be able to pay him by a particular date before that individual will leave that building,” Francis said.
He explained that even when that is done, the building has to be retrofitted to be converted into a police station where there can be holding cells and a charge office – among other facilities.
The Department of Labour yesterday ordered that the Soufriere station be shut down due to a number of health and safety breaches.
However police officers have said that they will not obey the directive because of the implications for national security.