Soufriere police have vowed to defy an order by the Labour Department to immediately abandon the Soufriere police station due to health and safety issues there.
The Department of Labour conducted an inspection of the building yesterday and identified a number of violations, resulting in a decision of the Health and Safety Officer to shut down the station.
The Department of Labour advised the officer in charge that effective yesterday at 4:pm all work activities at the station were to cease immediately.
However Police Welfare Association (PWA) President,Camron Laure, has told the Times that the police cannot obey that directive.
“While I agree that no one should work in a situation like that, we must consider national security. We cannot compromise national security while we are trying to work out an arrangement with the executive of the police force to ensure that the police officers are given favourable conditions in which to work,” Laure told the Times.
He said while he agrees that there is major work to be done on the Soufriere station, police officers must take the national security of the country into consideration.
Laure said the PWA would not agree to shutting down any police station.
“We must work together to find a suitable location, an acceptable location, but to suggest that a police station be shut down immediately – I think it is not fair, it is wrong,” the PWA President declared.
He explained that the some 20 officers at the Soufriere station are of the same mind.
Laure told the Times that the officers wanted the sleeping quarters at the station moved to a new location while the station was renovated, but that did not materialise.
He said when the PWA visited the station yesterday, it was discovered that officers had fallen ill with one officer being diagnosed with pneumonia.
According to Laure, the officers decided to step outside of the station to await word form the authorities about addressing their unfavourable working conditions.
The PWA President said that a compromise was eventually reached for the police officers to return to the station, work on an eight hour shift, but not sleep upstairs where the health and safety problem exists.
“There was one concern – that there were no toilet facilities for them downstairs – everything is upstairs where the problem exists,” Laure disclosed.
He said as a further compromise, a building that was identified as the place where the station will be relocated will be used, since it has washrooms and sleeping quarters.
Laure made it clear that the PWA never contacted the Department of Labour in connection with the situation at the Soufriere station.
The Times has been informed that an emergency meeting will be held later today between the PWA and the officers at the Soufriere station.