About 100 East End district residents attended a public meeting with Police Commissioner Derek Byrne Thursday night where they raised concerns that crime is growing in the small community and their perception that police seem to be doing little about it.
The meeting was held in the wake of a deadly accident in the district on May 2 and an ensuing retaliation against the police officer who first responded to that accident.
“A police officer that’s hired by the state to carry out the laws of this country needs to be respected,” said Delmira Bodden, one of the dozens of local residents who attended the East End United Church Hall to speak with Commissioner Byrne and several other RCIPS officers. “[Otherwise], we are encouraging crime in this district.”
Other residents expressed the same sentiment, but agreed many in the community were uneasy about going to police officers they did not know with information about crime. Mr. Byrne acknowledged that confidentiality of information was one of the “most important” issues the police had to address going forward.
“I’ve heard that someone will tell a police officer something and then hear it back [from the community],” Mr. Byrne said. “[That] is certainly not a part of any policing culture that I am a part of. There is a piece of work to be done around that.”
Mr. Byrne also noted his encouragement that many attending the Thursday night meeting seemed dismayed that an attack had occurred on the vehicle of the police officer who responded to the May 2 quadruple-fatal crash accident in East End. Some family members of the victims in that crash blamed the officer for “causing” the wreck because he was “pursuing” one of the vehicles involved – an allegation Mr. Byrne said was not substantiated.
“An attack on the police officer is an attack on the state or on society,” he said.
The commissioner rejected suggestions that RCIPS was not “doing anything” about crime in the eastern districts. Starting May 1, Mr. Byrne said the police service had placed two full-time police officers in the empty North Side and East End police stations.
He said those officers would be supervised by a trusted, veteran East End police officer, Sgt. Davis Scott. In addition, Mr. Byrne said it was his plan to place a detectives unit in the Bodden Town Police Station and increase community policing efforts in the area.
East End MLA Arden McLean said he was happy to hear such pronouncements, but noted it was not the first time additional policing had been promised to local residents and then not delivered.
“We’ve heard what you’ve said here tonight, I would say 15-20 times,” Mr. McLean said. “It’s the same story over and over and the fault lies squarely on the shoulders of any Cabinet we have.”
Arden McLean’s political opponent, John McLean Jr. said he would like to see Commissioner Byrne continue his public meetings with the district at least “once a quarter” and urged local officers to get out and socialize with the community.
“We’re a lovable district, we don’t try to harm no one up here,” John McLean Jr. said. “If they’re not socializing, they’re not going to get any information out of the community.”
Residents praised officers like Sgt. Scott and Constable Lazarus Moraes for their work in the community and asked that more officers follow their example in the future.
“Lawlessness has really crept into our society here,” Sgt. Scott said. “I’ve tried my best and I’ve had help from many good people out there. I’m looking forward to seeing more.”