Mon | Dec 10, 2018

Fairbairn Liverpool | Caripol buffer against regional crime

Published:Sunday | September 30, 2018 | 12:00 AMFairbairn Liverpool

The Independent West Indian Commission in its 1992 report, Time for Action, called on the region to be active in promoting a more appropriate system of international security. It advocated that such a system would no longer hold the region hostage to the vulnerability of smallness or jeopardise its development through the need for major military expenditure.

This perspective of the commission is even more relevant today as crime and violence threatens the security of our citizens and their assets. Crime and violence has turned out to be a clear and present danger to economic development and nation building in the Caribbean.

According to the United States Institute of Peace, Special Report on Police Corruption (2011), Transparency International reported that the police, in 86 countries surveyed, were judged the fourth most corrupt institution, after political parties, public officials generally, and Parliaments and legislatures.

This should come as no surprise to the average informed reader in the Commonwealth Caribbean. It is common knowledge that crime in the Caribbean is not only money for our common variety street criminal, but also for the large legitimate businesses that venture into the criminal underworld by importing the drugs and guns. Crime is also a moneymaking enterprise for the police, who are corrupted by the big businesses and the very criminals they should be prosecuting.

 

MONEY FOR POLITICIANS

 

Additionally, crime is money for the politicians who are bankrolled by these big businesses, as well as for the public officials generally who freely accept bribes.

Finally, crime is money for the defence lawyers who defend the criminals, and who know the corrupt police, politicians and public officials.

This cycle of corruption and criminal activity is compounded by the reality of small societies in the Caribbean where everybody knows everybody. I once conducted an informal conversational survey of various police ranks in four member states on this matter. What was confirmed to me was that it was a virtual impossibility to have a crime committed without the knowledge of a member of the law-enforcement community, i.e., from a constable to the commissioner.

Two questions must then be asked. First, why has crime not been prosecuted with greater success? Second, what can be done to reduce the systemic corruption at all levels that undermines the rule of law and the institutions designed to uphold the law?

Caribbean states have, in the past, been the target of a wide range of hostile, domestic disturbances ranging from military invasion, international and domestic terrorism, maritime disputes, adverse territorial claims and coups d'etat.

During the last two decades, Caribbean nations have experienced higher levels of violence associated with the illicit drug trade, transnational organised crime, and ethnic, religious and political intolerance. Increasingly, concerns have been raised with respect to corruption, the trafficking in illegal arms, trafficking in persons, cybercrime and money laundering.

More recently, international terrorism has emerged as a major security threat and has been posited as a catalyst for other criminal activities, specifically, trafficking in narcotics and firearms. Caribbean countries, like their European and Middle Eastern counterparts, have had to bolster national-security mechanisms in the face of an influx of migrants fleeing hostile situations in their respective countries. This is a phenomenon that must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

Faced with similar inherent challenges of crime and security, most communities of nations rely on two main supranational institutions to complement member states in addressing crime and security issues which impact on the community as a whole. Most notable of these in the area of law enforcement are Interpol, at the global level within the United Nations (UN), and Europol, within the European Union. On the other hand, the UN's security apparatus, in the main, is based on its Multinational Peacekeeping Forces, while that of the EU is based on its military alliances.

 

WHY NOT CARIPOL?

 

Eleven years ago, CARICOM heads of government considered making security the Fourth Pillar for integration within CARICOM, but no substantial progress has been made in its implementation. As the then regional coordinator for crime and security within the CARICOM Secretariat, I was tasked to prepare the concept paper for internal discussion. In it, I advocated the establishment of a Caribbean Security System (CSS) and a Caribbean Police Service (Caripol) as the principal institutions of regional security cooperation.

Guided by the recommendation of the West Indian Commission (1992) that "both the United States and Europe should help to put in place such a system of international security against illegal drugs ...", there was a call for comprehensive regional security cooperation.

During a February 2001 meeting with Caribbean regional maritime officials, it was recommended that eight subregions or zones (including the Dutch, French, British, the USA, dependent territories and the Regional Security System (RSS), in collaboration with Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Belize, be created to facilitate the coordination of interdiction operations across the entire Caribbean to combat illegal drug trafficking.

With the potential cooperation and coordination in the sharing of intelligence and operations being created within the region, a serious blow could have been struck on the transnational criminal activities of big businesses, which has been a leading source of money laundering and corruption.

Police literature speaks of the need to transfer police ranks tactically around the various police districts to avoid overfamiliarity that could facilitate corruption.

However, in small island states, the employment of such a tactic would face severe limitations because of the small size of the population and geography. Therefore, the establishment of a regional mechanism under the umbrella of a Caripol would not only facilitate the employment of such police tactics, but would also serve as a tremendous learning experience for the visiting ranks working at various levels from the streets to the offices within various member states.

The presence of strangers among the ranks of the local police will no doubt serve as a deterrent to petty corrupt practices. Through Caripol, legal mechanisms could be established to facilitate various assistance programmes to individual police forces in need.

The basis of establishing security as the Fourth Pillar of the Caribbean Community revolves around the need to develop and maintain a safe and secure environment. This presupposes the establishment and effective functioning of institutions to address issues regarding security and the adherence to the rule of law.

A Caribbean Security System and Caripol should be prerequisites of security as the Fourth Pillar because they create the appropriate environment for sustaining creative, healthy and productive CARICOM citizens.

- Fairbairn E. Liverpool was a military officer in the Guyana Defence Force, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs and later served as regional coordinator for crime and security at the CARICOM Secretariat. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and feliverpool@gmail.com.